- Craig Custance
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DETROIT -- Daniel Alfredsson had no idea how it was going to feel. For 17 seasons he played for one team, and this was the first time he was on the other side of the ice. He was competing against the Ottawa Senators, old friends and teammates.
This couldn't have been how he pictured it: Three first-period goals by the Senators, on their way to an easy 6-1 rout over Alfredsson's new team in Detroit.
Really, nobody saw it coming.
"I thought it was going to be a real good hockey game," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said afterward. "Their team came prepared to play and skated us into the ground. We didn’t play at all."
After the game, cameras circled around his stall where Alfredsson took off his Detroit Tigers cap, dropped it onto his seat and then turned to explain what it was like to, not only compete against, but get blown out by the team he left. The team he figured didn’t have as good a shot at a Stanley Cup as his new one.
"It was obviously a different game today, the way it turned out. It didn't feel crazy. Warmup was what it was. Once the game got going, you’re really into it," Alfredsson said. "I would have loved to win, no question. I think the big thing for us is we played a good game against San Jose and we took a step back."
But the prevailing emotion about facing his old team?
"It didn't feel as awkward as I thought it would," he said.
There was more buildup for this game than there was emotion during it. Following a morning skate in which a couple Senators watched their former captain practice, the Red Wings dressing room was packed. There were cameras recording Alfredsson’s pregame chat and other cameras recording those cameras.
When Babcock walked into the room, he joked about the unusual mass of bodies for a Wednesday night hockey game in October.
"It's not a playoff game, is it?" he said. "What's going on here?"
The playoff atmosphere didn’t survive the game. It was Ottawa's new captain who carried play early with Jason Spezza scoring twice. It was Ottawa’s new goal-scoring forward, Bobby Ryan, who completed the rout, scoring the sixth and final goal of the game at 6:13 in the third period. It was Ryan’s second goal of the game.
Not too much longer after that, a majority of the Red Wings fans at Joe Louis Arena called it a night.
In the end, this became more about the more motivated team earning two big points on the road than about Alfredsson.
"You lose touch of where Alf is during the game just because you're playing the game and you're just worried about playing," Spezza said. "He's a good friend. He's a guy we played with for a long time. It's different seeing him, but it's nice to catch up with him in the morning and see him. Once the game starts, it doesn't really come into play because we're so focused on the game."
Alfredsson finished without a point in 16:12 of icetime, registering two shots and two hits. A non-factor on a team full of them in the loss.
Before the game, Ryan expressed relief that he was able to get his return to Anaheim out of the way early in the season. It’s a box to check while turning the page with a new team.
The first trip back to Ottawa will no doubt be the more emotional of the matchups between the Red Wings and Senators for Alfredsson. But at the very least, he can now put this initial meeting behind him, almost like a test run. He has a better idea of how that emotional night will play out on Dec. 1.
"The big thing for him, just like everybody -- there's lot of things going on around with the media and fans," Babcock said. "The measure of Alfie is none of this stuff. It's the kind of person he is, the kind of man he is and the kind of family guy he is. To me, he made a decision. He moved on. That's it."
DETROIT -- Daniel Alfredsson had no idea how it was going to feel. For 17 seasons he played for one team, and this was the first time he was on the other side of the ice.