OTTAWA – With the Ottawa Senators needing every point they can muster down the stretch to maintain their slim playoff hopes, just about the last thing they needed was to lose one of their stars for any length of time.
But the Senators, 13 points out of an Eastern Conference playoff spot heading into their game Thursday against Vancouver, learned they’ll be without captain Daniel Alfredsson indefinitely due to a fractured jaw.
“Not a good time right now,” Alfredsson said. “But nothing you can do.
“I’ll get into the gym and work hard and be ready when I get back.”
Alfredsson was injured in the third period of Tuesday night’s 3-2 overtime loss to Colorado in Denver. He suffered a small fracture when a shot by teammate Dany Heatley struck him in the face.
Alfredsson left for X-rays before returning to finish the period and overtime. Initially the hope was he had escaped with just bruising but the good news is he won’t require surgery or his jaw to be wired shut, although he’s on a liquid diet for the time being.
The Senators travel to Montreal on Saturday during Hockey Day in Canada, then return home to play host to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. Alfredsson will be doubtful for those as well.
Apart from the pain, he can’t run the risk of taking a further blow.
“It’s a fracture, it’s just got to heal,” Alfredsson said. “I need some time away from contact for a little bit.
“We’ll probably look at it again next week and see where it is and go from there.”
Alfredsson will likely wear a full face shield when he does return.
“There’s nothing you can put on it to play today,” he said. “Give it some time here and hopefully I’ll be back soon.
“I’m just hoping it’s as soon as possible.”
So are the Senators. With the playoffs seeming an impossibility little more than two weeks ago when Craig Hartsburg was fired as coach, the postseason, while still a longshot, doesn’t seem as far away now.
Under new coach Cory Clouston, Ottawa is 5-1-2 heading into Thursday night’s game, but faces a big test without one of its top players.
Although Alfredsson hasn’t produced offensively as well this year as he has in the past, he still leads the Senators in scoring with 52 points in 55 games. His 17 goals are third on a team that ranks among the lowest scoring in the NHL.
“It means we lose a pretty good player and our leader, but it also means a real good opportunity and a challenge for the rest of the team,” Clouston said of Alfredsson’s absence. “We may have some more ice time for certain players and different roles for certain players.”
The Senators have recalled forward Josh Hennessy from Binghamton of the American Hockey League.
The 24-year-old has 17 goals and 32 points in 54 games with the B-Sens this season. In 15 career NHL contests, he has a goal.
However, it’s centre Chris Kelly who will go in at right wing on the team’s top line alongside centre Jason Spezza and Heatley.
Kelly, who has just six goals and 16 points in 56 games this year, will do what he can to help the Senators maintain their current run of picking up at least a point in seven straight contests.
“Obviously, I’m not going to go out there and try to replace Alfie,” Kelly said. “That’s impossible.”