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Wayne Scanlan, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Tuesday, October 31, 2006


As usual, there are two ways to look at this up-and-down start for the Ottawa Senators.

The dim view is to consider the 5-5 won-lost record and worry all day about trailing those upstart teams such as Atlanta and Pittsburgh. The head coach himself, Bryan Murray, calls the Senators' performance over the first 10 games "very average." (He's no Lyin' Bryan).

The flip side is to consider that the Senators have won five of 10 with a negligible contribution from their two biggest, most experienced stars: Daniel Alfredsson and Wade Redden.

How much better will this team be when the captain and the "keeper" are both healthy and productive?

Redden, the chosen one when the Senators were unable to keep him and fellow free-agent defenceman Zdeno Chara, has been fighting a groin problem since the pre-season. Ottawa's top scoring defenceman last season with 50 points and a team-leading plus 35 plus-minus rating, Redden has a solitary point, an assist, in nine games played.

Alfredsson, tied for the team lead with 103 points last season, has six points in 10 games, including one goal, scored in the season opener at Toronto.

There is a positive side to the Senators scoring 33 goals, with Alfredsson and Redden only accounting for one of the 33.

From the start it has been obvious that Redden is not right. He doesn't have his usual push out of the zone. His injury even seems to affect his passing, normally as crisp a first pass as can be found in the NHL.

Last Thursday, Redden pulled himself out of the Toronto game when his groin tightened, then he sat out Saturday's 2-1 loss in Boston. He's unlikely to start against the Canadiens in Montreal tonight despite saying yesterday there had been progress. He left yesterday's practice early.

Is Alfredsson hurting? He, too, suffered some groin problems during an overloaded exhibition schedule, but insists he's "100-per-cent" healthy now. Something about the way he says it, though, is unconvincing. Something is missing from Alfredsson's game, beyond the usual bad luck that every slumping scorer experiences. Alfredsson was minus-one against the Bruins, with one shot on goal and one missed net on a glorious scoring chance.

He has been skating better in recent games after clearly lacking jump earlier in the season.

Murray admitted yesterday it would help Alfredsson to have a goal scorer with him, as he no longer plays alongside Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza.

Journeyman Dean McAmmond has been Alfredsson's centre for most of this season.

Peter Schaefer is usually on the left side, but he has missed four games with a hip flexor problem. Schaefer's pending return should help; as Murray quipped yesterday, Schaefer rarely shoots, so he might help Alfredsson score. He needs the boost. It is astounding to consider that the Senators produced 20 scoring points in a 7-2 romp against the Leafs and Alfredsson was held off the scoresheet. That is also a comment on Ottawa's struggling power play.

Like Schaefer, Redden wants to be close to full health before returning, to avoid any further setbacks. Yesterday, Schaefer admitted he knew far more about the ramifications of hip flexor injuries and adductor problems than he ever thought he'd care to know. We couldn't agree more after a spring spent learning way too much about Dominik Hasek's adductor.

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