One of the major curiosity dates on the NHL schedule takes place this evening when longtime captain Daniel Alfredsson returns to Ottawa for the first time as a member of the Detroit Red Wings.
It's the biggest story in town in Canada's capital, as evidenced by today's cover of the Ottawa Sun (left). The game is a 5:30 start and will be shown nationwide in Canada, and on NHL Network in the United States.
(* -- If you're looking for Sabres news, they're off today and return to the ice tomorrow *)
It will certainly be interesting to see the reaction for Alfredsson, who is clearly the greatest Senator of all time but was a bit of a turncoat when he spured Ottawa and signed a one-year deal with Detroit in July. I'm sure there are Senators fans who aren't keen on the idea of a tribute.
An aside here: The Sabres correctly never considered a tribute for Daniel Briere and Chris Drury when they returned in 2008 because fan backlash would have been huge. If you remember, they basically both got booed every time they touched the puck. Alfredsson, on the other hand, is essentially the Gilbert Perreault of Ottawa.
(And, for the record, the Sabres still were dopes for not giving Jason Pominville 30 seconds when he returned in October, although the current belief is Darcy Regier nixed that plan. Still, no current Sabres employee has ever confirmed that point to me and it would have made sense to given how they got shredded in my column and by plenty of fans. But I digress...)
"I'm anxious to play the game. What's going to happen will happen," Alfredsson said. "It's very different from anything I've ever gone through before. I don't know what to expect or what's going to happen. I'm hopeful it will be a good night."
Alfredsson has informed the Senators he will not be re-signing, which had been considered a mere formality in the last couple of days. Instead, he is going to hit the free agent market and is expected to sign with either the Detroit Red Wings or Boston Bruins (most reports have Detroit in the lead, with Alfredsson joining fellow Swede Henrik Zetterberg and the deal being one year and $3.5 million).
Alfredsson is far and away Mr. Senator, a player who seemed destined to play his whole career in Ottawa. He has 426 goals, 682 assists and 1,108 points in 1,178 games since making his debut in Ottawa in 1995. He is the NHL's longest-tenured captain, having taken over the role from Alexei Yashin in 1999.
And, of course, he is forever tied to the Sabres-Senators playoff battles as the player Jason Pominville went around to score the short-handed overtime goal that ended the teams' Eastern Conference semifinal in 2006, and the overtime scorer that broke Buffalo's hearts in the decisive Game Five of the Eastern Conference finals in 2007. Alfredsson also scored his 1,000th career point in Buffalo in 2010 with an empty-net goal that capped a hat trick.
Ottawa went on to lose the Stanley Cup final in '07 to Anaheim and Alfredsson hasn't been that close to the Cup since. At age 40, a sudden move like this is clearly a chase of a championship.
And remember this point: If it's the Red Wings, Alfredsson is moving within the division. Detroit is joining Tampa Bay and Florida next season in the yet-unnamed division with the five holdovers from the Northeast. Instant new rivalry.
Cory Conacher is losing out on the Florida sun but he got a big jump in the standings and a much shorter trip to games for his family.
The former Canisius College star was traded Wednesday by the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Ottawa Senators for goalie Ben Bishop in one of the more interesting trades on deadline day.
Oddly enough, Conacher's debut with the Senators will come here Friday night against the Sabres. He had been scheduled to play the Buffalo homecoming game with Tampa on April 14. Conacher left Tampa Wednesday on a flight to Boston to join the Senators.
"I was counting down the days when I was with Tampa and the Tampa team play Buffalo in about a week. And now I get to play them sooner," Conacher said on Team 1200 Radio in Ottawa before boarding the flight.
"So it's going to be a lot of fun to go to Buffalo to see some old friends from school, my old coach as well. It's going to be a fun little trip there, a fun start to my Ottawa career and hopefully we get a win there."
Click above for the NHL Network's take on the Erik Karlsson injury. Here's a solid column by good friend of the blog Pierre LeBrun on ESPN.com, who points out that as much of a loss Karlsson is to the Senators, it's a bigger loss to the league as a whole
Ottawa GM Bryan Murray held a press conference today, confirming Karlsson has had surgery for a 70 percent cut of his Achilles and will be out 3-4 months.
"His year is finished at this time," said Murray, who explained this is an injury that could have taken up to a year of recovery time if it was more severe.
Coming to a photojournalism contest near you: Erik Karlsson's Achilles is sliced by Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke (left). (AP Photo)
By Mike Harrington
Milan Michalek and Erik Karlsson combined on the short-handed goal that beat the Sabres Tuesday night in Ottawa and the Senators looked pretty darn good in that game even without the injured Jason Spezza. Goalie Craig Anderson had a 42-save shutout and played like the NHL's best.
But Michalek suffered an unknown lower-body injury during the warmup last night in Pittsburgh and now Karlsson, the defending Norris Trophy winner, is done for the year after suffering a lacerated Achilles in a collision with Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke. Karlsson will be out at least 3-4 months, Sens GM Bryan Murray said today. So that's it for him.
I didn't like the Cooke play at all. Brendan Shanahan issued no suspension today and I see that. It's hard to judge intent. There wasn't even a penalty on the play. But what was Cooke's leg even doing up there? Was he getting ready for a slew foot?
"Obviously we need more production out of Drew," coach Lindy Ruff bluntly told me today. "He had Grade A opportunities last game (Sunday's 3-1 loss to Boston), two that we need him to finish. I can't stand here and say, 'Well he had two great chances.' The production is putting those away. When the game was 1-1, he could have turned it to 2-1 for us on a couple of his opportunties.
"He did make a real good play to [Tyler] Ennis that got us the tie. Maybe that's a start. Some of the in-tight stuff, he's had a couple chances and the in-tight stuff has got to improve."
Tyler Myers (right) met Colin Greening along the boards last week in Ottawa and gets another shot tonight. (Getty Images)
By Mike Harrington
OTTAWA -- The Sabres have done a lot of talking the last few days amongst themselves. But what's the old adage? Talk is cheap. Let's see what it means on the ice.
We get a big look tonight at Scotiabank Place as defenseman Tyler Myers returns to the lineup for the game against the Ottawa Senators after sitting out two games as a healthy scratch. Myers had long talks with coach Lindy Ruff and veteran Robyn Regher last Friday in Long Island and said today he's prepared to be "starting from ground zero"* tonight.
"It feels good to be back in but I don't know if it's a relief," Myers said today. "I don't come here just to get in the lineup. I need to put together a solid defensive game and just build it from there. I've tried to work as hard as I can using the time I have to try to mentally get prepared and that's the biggest thing. I don't think at this point it's anything physical. It's just getting my head straight."
The Sabres canceled a day off last week and practiced because they needed the work. They decided today they needed the rest.
The Sabres have axed their practice scheduled for this morning and will meet this afternoon when they travel to Ottawa. They play the Senators on Tuesday, which will be the team's 14th game in 24 days.
John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.
Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.
Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.