For first time in 18 years, Senators open camp without Alfredsson on hand

OTTAWA – For the first time in 18 years, longtime captain Daniel Alfredsson wasn’t on hand for the start of the Ottawa Senators’ training camp.

The Swedish forward signed with the Detroit Red Wings as a free agent in July, ending his long run in the nation’s capital. His former teammates said they were sad to see him go, but it’s time to move on.

“It will be a change without having Alfie around, but like I said earlier we expected him to sort of be near the end so it’s not a huge shock for us not to have him here,” forward Jason Spezza. “We thought it would be because he was retiring and not moving to another team, but we knew eventually the void would have to be filled.”

Alfredsson’s departure was one of the main talking points as players took part in physicals and fitness testing on Wednesday.

“It’s been talked about so much and I know I’ve talked about it so much that it doesn’t really seem like today has any impact on him not being here,” Spezza said. “It will be different a little bit, but in hockey you’re used to guys moving on and having lots of change.”

Longtime Senators defenceman Chris Phillips also weighed in on the Alfredsson topic.

“Obviously he was a huge part of this organization, gave back a ton to the city and it’s a big deal not having him around, but the extent of it is us having to answer questions,” he said. “We’ve moved on, we have to move on and look forward.”

While many players were close to Alfredsson, his absence might have the greatest impact on Erik Karlsson.

The young defenceman was extremely close to Alfredsson and his family. He even lived with them as a rookie and viewed the older Swede as a mentor and close friend.

“It’s going to be a big hole to fill and on a personal level it’s going to be tough,” said Karlsson. “It’s going to be a big change, but at the same time it’s an opportunity to grow and maybe take some of that advice you got from him and give it to someone else.”

Karlsson admits it will take some time to get used to not having Alfredsson around on a daily basis.

“I wish him all the best and hope he has a really good season,” he said. “He’s at the end of his career and whatever he has to do to keep playing and be happy that’s what he has to do.”

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The Senators may not have to dwell long on Alfredsson’s absence if newcomer Bobby Ryan can live up to the hype surrounding his acquisition. Ryan is a four-time 30-goal scorer and is expected to play on the right side with Spezza and Milan Michalek.

“We’ve got the makings of some great potential and I just hope it continues through camp and into the season,” said Ryan.

The 26-year-old Ryan was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks in a trade the same day Alfredsson signed with Detroit. He said he’s looking forward to playing in a city that thrives on hockey.

“I’m going to embrace it,” he said. “It’s going to be night and day from where I came from and what I dealt with the past six years, but I think it’s something that keeps you focused and something that keeps your mind on the game at all times and I might have needed that push this year.”

Earlier this week, Ryan hit the streets to interview local fans and discovered that while his name is well known, few actually recognized him. He plans on changing that this season.

“I want to be a guy that’s embraced by the community and the community comes to like and a player they like to come watch play the game,” said Ryan. “I want them to understand I’m going to give 100 per cent every night and I’m not going to take nights off.”

Also looking to make an impact is Clarke MacArthur, who signed a two-year deal with the Senators as a free agent after spending the last three seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s expected to play on a line with Kyle Turris.

“I want to come in here and do the job I know I can do,” said MacArthur. “Be good at both ends, contribute offensively and do the things that have helped me in the past.”

Notes: Senators coach Paul MacLean said he has no timeline on when he will announce his new captain. “Naming a captain isn’t something I take lightly. I think it’s important to take the time and that’s what we’re going to do.”…MacLean added that Karlsson had been considered a candidate for the captaincy, but figured he wasn’t ready just yet. He listed Spezza, Phillips, Chris Neil, Marc Methot and goalie Craig Anderson as his core leadership group. He will not consider Anderson as the captain. “They’ve tried that once in this league and it didn’t work out so good.”…The Senators will take to the ice tomorrow for the first time.