OTTAWA – Daniel Alfredsson smiled Friday when asked by a reporter how to say “welcome back” in the Ottawa captain’s native Swedish.
Alfredsson was only too happy to oblige the request.
The all-star right-winger is glad to be returning to the lineup from a hip flexor injury and, one game after sniper Dany Heatley returned from a shoulder problem, his teammates are equally thrilled to have their leader back for an important game against Montreal on Saturday (7 p.m. ET).
“We’re getting our best all-around player back, so obviously it’s a big boost,” Senators coach John Paddock said Friday following practice.
Alfredsson missed the past four games and six of the last nine contests.
“It’s a four-point game in the true sense of that, so to have him back in a big game like that, a division game, it’s very important,” Paddock said.
Ottawa has struggled without Alfredsson in the lineup. Before their 5-4 victory over the Florida Panthers on Thursday, the Senators had lost all six previous games this season without him. He leads the team with 32 goals and 68 points in 48 games.
“We obviously aren’t the same team without him,” Paddock said.
Having Alfredsson back also means that for the first time since Heatley was lost with a separated shoulder on Jan. 12 and missed 11 games, the Senators will have their two best players dressed and ready to go.
“Obviously it’s going to be exciting and especially playing Montreal,” Alfredsson said. “Any time you’re missing games, it’s not fun. It doesn’t matter if the team’s winning or losing.
“If they’re winning, it’s like, ‘Why are they winning without me,’ and if they’re losing, you want to help the team.”
In the Senators’ case, they’ve mostly been losing. The win over the Panthers stopped a three-game losing slide and was only Ottawa’s fourth victory in 12 games.
That should change with Heatley and Alfredsson back in action.
“They’re a huge presence, not only on the ice, but in the locker-room. It gets a little mojo back,” said Senators defenceman Wade Redden.
Things are looking up for the Senators after an interesting week. There was a near-altercation between right-winger Chris Neil and goaltender Ray Emery in practice and a team meeting was later called.
After dropping a 4-3 decision to Montreal last Tuesday, the Senators bounced back with the win over Florida. Heatley scored twice and added an assist to help first-place Ottawa move three points ahead of the Canadiens in the Eastern Conference.
And now Alfredsson’s back. This time, he hopes it’s to stay.
He suffered the injury in a Jan. 17 game against the Carolina Hurricanes and sat out the next two games. He came back and recorded a franchise-record seven points in a win over Tampa Bay on Jan. 24 and played in the NHL all-star game three days later. Alfredsson then aggravated the problem against the New York Islanders on Jan. 29.
He insisted Friday he was fully fit.
“Hopefully we can stay healthy down the stretch and hold onto first place,” he said.