DETROIT -- This all has to feel a bit familiar to Daniel Alfredsson. The team that he captained last season, the Ottawa Senators, was one of the most remarkable stories of the season, winning games even as key player after key player went down with injuries. Craig Anderson, Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson all missed significant time on a team that refused to use injuries as an excuse.
Now, it’s happening again, at least the part about losing key players. Alfredsson’s current team -- the Detroit Red Wings -- is without its two superstar forwards in Henrik Zetterberg (back) and Pavel Datsyuk (concussion), both out with injuries that come with very hazy timelines for return. Defenseman Danny DeKeyser, who, in his short tenure with the Red Wings, has vaulted up the depth chart into one of their three most important defensemen, is out with a shoulder injury.
Before playing the Flyers on Wednesday, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock singled out Alfredsson and Niklas Kronwall as two leaders on the team who may be faced with the biggest task as the stars recover.
"There's a real challenge for Alfredsson and Kronwall to keep us poised and confident in the room and on the bench," Babcock said.
In the case of Alfredsson, it helps that he's seen this all before. He also knows what's in store for the Red Wings in the coming weeks as they try to maintain their spot in the standings.
"I believe anytime you have an injury to your best player, I think short term it raises the awareness of the team, and everybody knows we have to pull the load here," Alfredsson said when we chatted Wednesday morning. "A lot of guys have stepped up with more responsibility. It's great to see, but long term it's hard. In Ottawa last year, we had three goaltenders who stood on their head throughout the year. They were unbelievable. That definitely helped and gave us confidence. That's what we're getting here, too, good goaltending. We just have to make sure that we stick to what we're doing, and I think we'll get chances to win every game."
In Wednesday's 6-3 loss to the Flyers, the Red Wings certainly had chances to win. As the penalties piled up for the Flyers in the second period, it looked like the Red Wings were well on their way to a strong opening performance in the first game since Zetterberg's back injury was surprisingly announced by GM Ken Holland.
But the Flyers' penalty kill withstood the pressure about as well as it could have hoped. In the second, Philadelphia's five penalties resulted in just one Red Wings goal, and that came on a 5-on-3 goal from Tomas Tatar. On the flip side, the Flyers' power play was a perfect 3-for-3. If you're looking for early indications of where the Datsyuk and Zetterberg injuries will impact Detroit most, the power play is a good place to start.