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Alfredsson, Redden out of lineup
Ken Warren, The Ottawa Citizen
Saturday, December 09, 2006

As the Ottawa Senators captain until injured Daniel Alfredsson or Wade Redden return, defenceman Chris Phillips understands the road ahead will be difficult.

Without Alfredsson and Redden in the lineup, the Senators are heading into a stretch of five games in eight days, including several contests against elite NHL teams on the road.

In fact, after next week, the Senators will have played 21 road games, exactly half the number of away games in the entire season, yet they'll be only 34 games into the season.

Today's game against the New York Rangers marks only the sixth time the Senators have played at home since Nov. 4. By the end of next week's trip, they will have played 16 on the road during that span.

Obviously, their schedule is more favourable in the second half of the season.

For the rest of December and January, the Senators have 14 home games and five on the road.

Yet as cliched as it sounds, Phillips says the Senators can only afford to look at what is right in front of them, namely this afternoon's game against the Jekyll-and-Hyde Rangers at Scotiabank Place.

"We're not looking at the road trip yet," Phillips said after a spirited workout yesterday. "We've got a game to play here and we have to play well. We can't take anybody for granted and (must) be ready to play a solid game to get back on the winning track before we go on the road."

On Wednesday, the Washington Capitals blew away the Senators in the third period for a 6-2 victory, putting the brakes on a team that had won its four previous games and eight of the previous nine.

The Rangers, who have been an inconsistent, but often explosive team, are coming off a 3-2 shootout victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday.

Immediately after today's game, the Senators leave for Columbus, kicking off a four-game trip featuring matchups with the Blue Jackets tomorrow, the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday, the Nashville Predators on Thursday and the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.

Columbus has been playing better since Ken Hitchcock took over as coach. Nashville and Detroit are battling for first place in the Central Division and Buffalo has lost only five games in regulation.

As imposing as these teams are, it's all the more difficult for the Senators to play them without Alfredsson and Redden.

Redden, who has a chest injury, won't make the trip. Alfredsson, who strained a muscle in his hip during Tuesday's 4-2 victory against the New York Islanders, will decide today whether to join the team. He's not expected to resume skating for at least a few days. The Senators are listing him as day-to-day, but have called up centre Serge Payer from Binghamton of the American Hockey League to take Alfredsson's roster spot.

"I don't think it's too bad, it's getting better every day," said Alfredsson, who was hurt when he was checked by the Islanders' Tom Poti. "It's nothing I've had previously. (The results) are more encouraging, for sure. It's not as bad as I thought it would be when it first happened. I just have to keep doing exercises, try certain things, until it's pain free. Once I can do more rehabilitation, I'll know when I'm able to skate."

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