Sept. 30: Week Ahead in Hockeytown
Alfredsson begins new chapter of NHL career against familar Eastern foes
|In 17 seasons with Ottawa, veteran winger Daniel Alfredsson scored more goals (42) against the Buffalo Sabres than any other NHL team. His first game for the Red Wings will be against the Sabres on Wednesday. (Photo by Getty Images)|
DETROIT –When it comes to evaluating his own talents and what he might mean to his new team this season, 40-year-old Daniel Alfredsson is a tough judge.
“I think I play a two-way game. I expect myself to contribute offensively and a player that’s dependable in all situations,” he said. “If I had to rate myself I say I’m not good at anything and I’m not bad at anything. I can do it all, but I’m not the best in the world at anything.”
Luckily for the Red Wings, they just need Alfredsson to be himself.
The former 40-goal scorer, who signed a one-year contract with the Wings during the offseason after spending 17 seasons with the Ottawa Senators, is expected to play on the second line along with Johan Franzen and center Stephen Weiss, who also signed with Detroit in the summer.
“We knew they were great players,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Alfredsson's going to be huge for us on the power play. He's been showing that in the preseason games, how well he plays in those situations. Weiss also brings great depth to us, he's a great player. He's a leader on the ice when he's out there. He's always working hard and he's got some really good skills, too. They're great additions. That's exactly what we need.”
This week starts a new, and final, chapter for Alfredsson’s NHL career. He has said before that the 2013-14 season will be his last. He has played in 1,178 league games, and Wednesday’s season-opener against Buffalo will be the first time that he’s played in something other than a Senators’ sweater.
“I’ve been in Ottawa my whole career and looking at my situation I wanted to try something new and exciting,” Alfredsson said. “Get to a team that plays an exciting style, and also, with me as a right-handed shot, fill a role on the power play maybe. It was a real intriguing challenge for me.”
Some might think that Alfredsson’s best days are behind him. He averaged 59 points over the last four full seasons. But he thinks a change of scenery can be rejuvenating.
“You have to prove yourself again. Coming into camp you’re a little bit nervous, how am I going to fit in? It’s everything you think about when starting something new. I was extremely comfortable and taken good care of in Ottawa. We were set. We led a great life.
“I look at this as a challenge for me personally and professionally, but also for us as a family. You make a change and you have to adapt and grow as people.”
Alfredsson suffered a groin injury during the first week of preseason season, limiting him to just two exhibition games with his new team. But last Friday, as the Wings’ puck-possession style dominated Toronto in a 5-2 win, his skilled meshed well, producing a power-play goal and an assist. He hopes to see more of the Red Wings’ dominance as they move to the Eastern Conference this season.
“Puck possession, speed and determination, those things sum up my experiences when I’ve played against them,” Alfredsson said. “Two years ago we played here to begin the year and we didn’t see the puck a whole lot. So far when we’ve been playing and playing well we’ve had the puck and controlling the play.
“This team will do well in the East. It’s a way better travel schedule. Puck possession, a different style and a lot of teams haven’t seen them as much, hopefully, especially early on when people haven’t scouted us as much we can take advantage of that.”
With that, here’s a look ahead to this week in Hockeytown:
WEDNESDAY – vs. BUFFALO: Looks like the young Sabres will come to town with a trio of former first-round draft picks set to make their NHL debuts against the veteran-laden Red Wings. Center Mikhail Grigorenko (12th overall, 2012) and left wing Zemgus Girgensons (14th overall, 2012) skated Monday on a line with Brian Flynn, who has played a total of 26 NHL games. Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (eighth overall, 2013) was paired with veteran Mike Weber at Monday’s practice. The 18-year-old Ristolainen, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 219-pounds, has a NHL-ready frame, similar to the Wings’ Danny DeKeyser, but four-years younger. … The Sabres moved Tyler Ennis back to the middle of a line with Marcus Foligno and Drew Stafford. Coach Ron Rolston has said that Ennis wasn’t getting the puck enough on the wing. The move was made to get the former 20-goal scorer back on track.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Despite his struggles last season, goalie Ryan Miller, the older brother of Red Wings forward Drew Miller, still believes in his abilities and hopes to bounce back this season. The former Michigan State standout is in the final season of a five-year contract that has paid him $6.25 million per season. He can become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Last season was brutal for the former Vezina Trophy winner, who finished with a 17-17-5 record. It was the first time since his rookie season in 2002-03 that he finished at or below .500. Pittsburgh (7-11-3), Ottawa (15-17-4), and the Red Wings (2-6-2) are the only Eastern Conference teams that Miller has posted a losing record against in his 10 NHL seasons.
FRIDAY – at CAROLINA: This is the season-opener for the Hurricanes, who have missed the playoffs in each of the last four seasons. They’ve been in the bottom third of the league in goals-allowed over the last four seasons, finishing 29th with a 3.31 goals per game last season. Yet the Hurricanes proved last season that they can score and do so in bunches with both Jiri Tlusty (22) and Eric Staal (18) finishing among the league’s top 20 goal-scorers. … Injuries have already plagued the Canes with forwards Alexander Semin (upper body) and Tuomo Ruuto (lower body) questionable for Friday’s opener, while third-line forward Jeff Skinner (lower body) is probable, and defenseman Tim Gleason (concussion) is out indefinitely.
PLAYER TO WATCH: A motivated Cam Ward has something to prove this season. After leading Carolina to the 2006 Stanley Cup and winning the Conn Smythe Trophy, he ascended to the top of the NHL goaltending heap. His early success has led to greater expectations, however, in the seven seasons since taking the big prize, Ward and the Hurricanes have made the playoffs just once. … Last season, Ward was limited to just 17 starts after suffering a season-ending knee injury. He had a solid training camp and exhibition season and just might be back to his calm, confident self. In eight seasons, Ward has five starts against the Red Wings, posting a 1-4-0 record with a 3.02 goals-against average and a shutout. On April 6, 2010, he stopped all 42 shots in a 3-0 over Detroit.
SATURDAY – vs. BOSTON: The Bruins, who have been to the Stanley Cup finals twice in the last three years, are expected to be serious contenders against this season. Some significant changes have transformed the overall makeup of the team, however, the core remains intact with key figures Patrice Bergeron, David Krajci, Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg still in the mix. The Bruins lost nine players to retirement, trade and free agency, while acquiring important pieces like Loui Eriksson (from Dallas) and Jarome Iginla (free agency). Eriksson is expected to slide onto Bergeron’s line with Brad Marchand.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Loui Eriksson has been a menace to the Red Wings during his seven-year NHL career. In 26 regular-season games against Detroit, the 28-year-old winger, has produced 12 goals and 10 assists, including three game-winning tallies. Of his 20 career game-winners six have come against the Red Wings and the Phoenix Coyotes. Eriksson has proven his worth as a top-six forward, but for the most part this underrated winger could have a humongous season for the Bruins. Capable of scoring 30-plus goals, he has compiled 150 goals and 207 assists with a plus-31 rating in his career. Like the Red Wings’ second line with the addition of Alfredsson and Weiss, pay attention to Bergeron’s line as Eriksson assimilates to his new Bruins linemates.