Red Wings' Alfredsson makes return trip to Ottawa

( - For the better part of nearly two decades, Ottawa Senators fans probably never envisioned Daniel Alfredsson in another uniform.

Those in attendance on Sunday evening will get a first-hand look at Alfredsson in a Detroit uniform as the former face of the franchise makes his first trip to Ottawa to face the Senators since joining the Red Wings as a free agent this past offseason.

A sixth-round pick of the Senators in the 1994 draft, Alfredsson quickly rose to the top of the organization's record books as he is the club's all-time leader in games played (1,178), goals (426), assists (682) and points (1,108). He was the winner of the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie in 1996 and was selected to six All-Star teams while with the Senators.

With the 40-year-old entering the sunset of his career, he reportedly hit an impasse on a new contract with the Senators and then inked a one-year, $5.5 million contract with the Red Wings for his 18th NHL season.

That left many in Ottawa and on the Senators stunned, though the players have faced Alfredsson once this season in Detroit. The Sens routed Alfredsson and the Red Wings 6-1 on Oct. 23 and then made it two victories in a row in this series with a 4-2 win at Detroit on Nov. 23. However, Alfredsson missed that game due to a groin injury.

Though Alfredsson's departure from the Senators wasn't totally amicable, the Swede will be honored with a pregame video tribute on Sunday.

"We'll recognize what Daniel has done in Ottawa and what he means to our fans," Sens owner Eugene Melnyk told Ottawa sports radio station TSN 1200 Wednesday. "There's no question we're going to honor him and make sure that everybody is behind him."

Alfredsson said on Saturday it is a game he is looking forward to.

"It's a division rival and they've handed it to us pretty good two times (this season)," said Alfredsson. "Obviously coming back to Ottawa, playing the first game, I'm sure it will be emotional. I'm not sure how I will react but I think it will be a special night."

Alfredsson is tied for third on the Red Wings with 19 points in 22 games, logging six goals and 13 assists. He scored twice and added a helper in Friday's 5-0 win over the New York Islanders that was also his 1,200th career game.

Darren Helm also scored twice -- one shorthanded -- and had an assist, while Jimmy Howard returned to make 29 saves after sitting out the first two contests of what is now a three-game winning streak.

Howard notched his second shutout of the season and 18th of his career with his first victory since Nov. 1, having gone 0-3-4 in seven starts after that game. He helped Detroit snap a five-game slide to New York with its first victory in this series since Jan. 30, 2007 on Long Island.

"It was a big game for him," Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said of Howard. "We all know (our) history in this arena. It hasn't been easy to come here and play, but Howard really made some key saves for us in the beginning."

Detroit has outscored its opponents 14-2 over this win streak and Jonas Gustavsson is still expected to start tonight despite Howard's shutout. He gave up just two goals on 39 shots faced in wins over Buffalo and Boston to begin this streak and is 2-3-0 with a 2.24 goals against average in his career versus the Senators.

Ottawa has lost six of its last nine games and was bested 5-2 by the visiting Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

Craig Anderson gave up four goals on 15 shots before being replaced by Robin Lehner during a four-goal second period. Clarke MacArthur and Mika Zibanejad had the goals in the losing effort.

"I don't think we're getting the team play," Senators head coach Paul MacLean said of the team's struggles. "We're not playing hard enough."

It is unknown if Anderson or Lehner will start this evening. Anderson is 3-5-0 with a 2.91 GAA in 11 games (8 starts) in his career versus the Red Wings, while Lehner is 1-0-0 with a 3.96 GAA in two games.

Lehner picked up that win on Nov. 23 with 34 saves.