There has been little good news on the injury front for the Ottawa Senators of late, so getting captain Daniel Alfredsson back early from a separated left shoulder was a welcome surprise.
It was thought defenceman Filip Kuba would also return for Saturday night's game in Montreal after missing three games with an unspecified upper-body injury, but the Czech defenceman was a late scratch. Ottawa prevailed 4-2.
Alfredsson was hurt just before Christmas and was expected to be out for four to six weeks, but he returned just short of four. He missed 11 games.
"During the week I skated back in Ottawa and found I could do a little more battling and shooting, so I felt pretty confident," said Alfredsson.
"The biggest thing was coming here and practising with the team [on Friday]. I felt pretty good after, and [Saturday] morning is when I felt I could play.
"It's the first time I hurt my shoulder. I didn't know what to expect or how long I'd be out. I just tried to rehab and take care of it. I'm just happy to be at the point where I can step on the ice again."
Alfredsson was expected to bump Kaspars Daugavins from the lineup.
During practice, Alfredsson was back at right wing on his old line with centre Mike Fisher and Nick Foligno.
"It's a huge boost for us," Fisher said. "We're waiting for bodies and he's been our best player."
"He's your captain, your leader, so it's a big plus," said Clouston. "We just have to make sure the other players don't have letdowns."
The Senators are still missing star centre Jason Spezza (right knee), winger Milan Michalek (upper body), goalie Pascal Leclaire (concussion), and forward Jesse Winchester (upper body).