MONTREAL (AP) — Daniel Alfredsson has tormented the Canadiens since he began his Ottawa Senators career in 1995, but he has never faced Montreal in the playoffs.
The 40-year-old Alfredsson will finally get that chance Thursday night when the Senators and Canadiens face off in the postseason for the first time in Game 1 of the first-round matchup.
“It’s going to be a great series because of the cities being so close to each other,” Alfredsson said Wednesday. “Ottawa is a pretty new franchise compared to Montreal.
“Before we had the team, people were either Toronto or Montreal fans, so we have a lot of Montreal fans in Ottawa and we’re converting them one step at a time. Winning this series would probably go a long way to helping that.”
A long, tight series of one-goal games is expected from the two quick-skating teams.
With eight players with at least 10 goals in the 48-game regular season, the Canadiens bring more scoring depth and one of the NHL’s top power plays. Ottawa counters with the league’s best penalty-killing unit, thorough defensive play and a lot more size on the back end.
And they have Alfredsson, who has amassed 103 points in 85 career games against the Canadiens.
“He’s good and very smart on the ice,” said Montreal forward Michael Ryder, whose line with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta will likely shadow the Senators captain. “But I think if we play the way we can and get into the offensive zone and use that to our advantage, we’ll be fine.
“But you’ve got to watch him when he’s out there.”
There has never been a heated rivalry between the clubs, largely because they hadn’t met in the postseason since Ottawa joined the NHL as an expansion team in the 1992-93 season — when the Canadiens won the last of their record 24 Stanley Cup titles.
That is likely to change now.
“Both teams are looking at doing whatever it takes to win games,” Alfredsson said. “Usually, in a playoff series, incidents happen and rivalries get created because of it.
“I don’t think we’re looking to create a rivalry. We’re looking to win a series, and the rivalry will come with that.”
Carey Price was having a dominant season until he and the Canadiens fell apart for a two-week stretch in April, but the goalie rebounded with two decent outings in the final week. In his last postseason appearance in 2011, he excelled in a seven-game, first-round matchup against eventual Cup winner Boston.
Ottawa will counter with Craig Anderson, who posted a stellar 1.69 goals-against average and .941 save percentage this season but missed 20 games because of an injury.
Another matchup to watch is the play of each team’s young, hotshot defensemen: P.K. Subban for Montreal and 2012 Norris trophy winner Erik Karlsson for the Senators.
Subban was second in team scoring with 38 points. Karlsson likely would have had more impressive numbers had he not sustained a deep skate cut on his left Achilles tendon on Feb. 13. He returned for the final three games of the regular season.