The Ottawa Senators could have captain Daniel Alfredsson back to steer the ship to victory in Game 6.
After missing three games with a concussion he suffered last Saturday in Game 2 on an elbow to the head from Carl Hagelin, Alfredsson told reporters after an optional skate Sunday there's a good chance he'll return.
That could be just the boost the Senators need as they attempt to close out the series at Scotiabank Place Monday night on Hockey Night in Canada after pulling out to a 3-2 lead on the New York Rangers with a 2-0 victory at Madison Square Garden.
"I feel good. It's nice to be back on the ice. I skated a bit on my own on yesterday as well," said Alfredsson. "Today's another step and it's been a good couple of days. I'm hopeful. We're obviously going to wait until tomorrow but the way the last two days felt, I'm encouraged. So unless something changes, that's it."
The Senators have been a good team without Alfredsson, but they're better with him. He takes scoring pressure off the top line duo of Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek while helping fuel offence from Kyle Turris and Nick Foligno.
It doesn't sound like anything is going to hold Alfredsson out of the lineup, unless he has another setback before or after the pre-game skate.
"We're encouraged and optimistic from the progress he's made," said coach Paul MacLean. "We'll see how it is tomorrow but it's definitely encouraging."
Another Black Ace
If Alfredsson is ready to play, either rookie Mark Stone or winger Bobby Butler will likely be scratched. The Senators are also expecting Swedish sensation Jakob Silfverberg to arrive in town today and start skating with the club.
He was the Swedish league's MVP during the regular season and in the playoffs. Silfverberg helped lead Brynas to a Swedish league championship last week. MacLean said the club will consider using him.
Neal not disciplined, Tortorella has no comment
"He's on our roster, a player available to us, but we're going to consider all of our options before the game time tomorrow," said MacLean.
The Rangers are going to be forced to make changes. Brian Boyle, the club's top goal scorer in the series, has a concussion after getting hit by Chris Neil in Game 5 and wasn't expected to make the trip to Ottawa.
Though Blueshirts coach John Tortorella wanted Neil suspended for the hit, NHL VP of safety Brendan Shanahan took a second look and didn't even have a hearing with the rugged Ottawa winger.
The Rangers are going to have winger Carl Hagelin back from his three-game suspension he received for elbowing Alfredsson in the head. Hagelin said today he's looking forward to getting back into the series.
'"I am excited to get back. We're down 3-2 and want to get the next one," said Hagelin. "That's the only thing that's on my mind right now. What happened, happened, and I'm going to keep playing my game. I'm not a dirty player, so i'll just go out there and work hard."
It had better work for the Rangers or they'll be no work left in what will be a long summer.
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