The Ottawa Senators will play their final three regular-season games the same way they've played the previous 28 -- without captain Daniel Alfredsson.
Alfredsson, who hasn't played since Feb. 7 due to a back injury, will sit out the remainder of the season while trying to rehabilitate the injury and avoid surgery.
"We're going to continue with the program we're going on," he told reporters Monday. "It's progressed good. It feels better than it did a month ago. We're going to continue this. I hope in another month I'll feel good enough where I can start going into the heavier offseason program."
Alfredsson said surgery to fix what he said is a nerve issue is a last resort at this point.
"Anytime you go in and have surgery on your back, you worry about scar tissue and if that's going to stay with you," he said. "Where I am now doesn't justify to have surgery."
Alfredsson is one of five injured Senators who are unlikely to return over the final three games -- Tuesday against Philadelphia, Thursday against Montreal and Saturday in Boston.
Defenseman Sergei Gonchar (concussion) and Erik Karlsson (lacerated right thigh), and forwards Marek Svatos (concussion) and Peter Regin (shoulder) likely all will join Alfredsson as spectators over the final few days of the season.
The news was most disappointing to Alfredsson, Ottawa's long-time captain who hoped to be there for his teammates as they struggled to finish the season out of the last place in the Eastern Conference. The Senators currently are 14th, but tied with the Florida Panthers for the fewest points in the conference.
Alfredsson tried skating with the team during last week's road trip to Atlanta, Miami and Tampa Bay, but things never got to the point where he considered playing.
"Progress has been going pretty good, but skating on the ice -- skating has been the one that's troubled me the most," Alfredsson said. "I felt OK on the ice, but not good enough to justify playing in a game."
Alfredsson said shutting things down now were toward building for next season -- putting to rest any thoughts the 38-year-old wouldn't return for a 16th season.
"I think by not playing now I'm doing myself a favor and we'll be better off for it," he said. "Going through this year, how tough it's been, you look forward to coming back and going in another direction next year. When you have such a long period of layoff as we do until the season starts up, there's a lot of time to get excited and get ready for next year."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK