OTTAWA - The Ottawa Senators will be keeping an eye on Daniel Alfredsson's questionable status for Saturday's game against Tampa Bay, but everyone else will have their eyes on the game the Sens play 24 hours after that.
The Senators' captain suffered a hip flexor injury to his left side in Thursday's 5-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes and will decide Saturday morning whether he'll be available later that night when the Lightning visit Scotiabank Place.
Following Saturday's game, the Senators leave for Philadelphia, where they face a Flyers team with Steve Downie in the lineup for the first time since the rookie was slapped with a 20-game suspension for a vicious hit to the head of Sens forward Dean McAmmond in the pre-season.
"It's a little sore today, but better than yesterday, so it's day by day,"
said Alfredsson, who also didn't practise Friday, of the muscle injury. "I started feeling it in the first period (Thursday) and aggravated it a little bit on the first shift of the second, so just to make sure it doesn't get worse, I decided to go off. We'll see how it reacts to treatment here and go from there."
Having already lost sniper Dany Heatley for four to six weeks with a separated shoulder suffered last Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings, the Senators don't want to be without Alfredsson for an extended period of time. He leads the team with 29 goals and 60 points and ranks fifth in the NHL in scoring.
The Senators have already lost two of the three games that Heatley has missed and Alfredsson's absence would leave only Jason Spezza as the remaining piece of one of the league's top offensive lines.
"We may have to win 2-1 instead of 4-1 . . . but you can't change too much because those guys are missing," Spezza said. "We're going to have to find a way to win. We had a five-goal outburst last night, but we're probably not going to get five every night. We're just going to have to buckle down."
While the Senators keep an eye on Alfredsson's health, they'll also be watching out for Downie, who was still suspended when the Flyers beat the Senators 4-3 in the team's first meeting this year on Nov. 24.
Both McAmmond and coach John Paddock bristled Friday when asked about the importance of the game and facing Downie, who has just nine NHL games to his credit but has caused quite a stir during his brief stint in the league.
"I didn't even know he was there. It's about the least thing on my mind concerning Philadelphia - (Mike) Richards, (Jeff) Carter, (Daniel) Briere,
(Mike) Knuble, (Simon) Gagne. Those guys are on my mind a lot more than Steve Downie," said Paddock, who then admitted that the youngster would indeed figure in the story of the game.
"But I think since he's playing there, and it's got nothing to do with the Dean hit, he's going to be on our minds playing the game because he plays the game how we want players to play the game, so he'll be a presence in the game, I guarantee it."
Downie's hit on McAmmond left the veteran with a concussion and soreness in his neck and shoulder that caused him to miss the first 10 games of the season.
McAmmond is tired of the subject.
"I want to know who this guy is because he's certainly attracted the media's attention," McAmmond said. "Everybody so wants to talk about Steve Downie.
"But it's not just us. It's Toronto now, with (Jason) Blake, and it's another team. Steve Downie's writing his own story and it's nothing. I was part of it, but I don't want to be part of it anymore. . . . Because every time he does something, it takes up my time."
If Alfredsson is out, then it all but guarantees that the Senators will have enforcer Brian McGrattan in the lineup Saturday and Sunday, but McGrattan said if he plays against the Flyers, he won't go looking to even the score against Downie.
"I don't think we have to focus on that," McGrattan said. "If it's within the rules and he's there, then I'll hit him, but everything will be within the rules.
"I'm not going to go out there and jump him from behind and cause a big melee. I don't need that."