There are few players in the National Hockey League these days that confound the Buffalo Sabres as much as Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson.
The 37-year-old posted his eighth career hat trick in Friday night's 4-2 Ottawa win in HSBC Arena. And while it lifted the bubble of pressure off his team's 1-4-1 start that included four winless road games, the three goals also made Alfredsson the 75th player in NHL history to reach 1,000 career points.
Alfredsson, who had just one goal in the first six games this season, tipped home Erik Karlsson's point shot in the first period, burned Ryan Miller on a 2-on-1 in the second period and capped the performance by backhanding home an empty-net goal with 22.4 seconds to play.
"It hasn't really been on my mind at all with the struggles we've been going through," said Alfredsson, who is sixth on the active list in points. "It was more to get some wins. I got a little bit lucky: A tip-in, a half-missed shot that goes in and an open-netter. It feels great to be able to get the 1,000 points and win."
"You couldn't write a better script for that," said Senators coach Cory Clouston. "He was our best player tonight. It was very important for him to play that way when we've got guys out and guys struggling."
Alfredsson has 81 points in 78 regular-season games against the Sabres and his 41 goals are tied for the most ever against Buffalo (with Peter Stastny and Jaromir Jagr).
"I don't know what it is, to be honest," Alfredsson said. "We respect them tremendously and they have a great coaching staff. They're always tough to play against and because we respect them so much, we do well. Sometimes when you feel good in a building, it helps."
Alfredsson thrust his arms in the air in celebration after his third goal, knowing he had sealed his team's first road win in five tries this season and reached his own personal milestone.
"I was just thinking, 'Don't miss this one, don't mess it up,' " he said. "I had time but I got a little lucky on the bounce. It felt great to cap it off like that. A hat trick and a thousand points all in one feels pretty good."
There's a chance it could be the Battle of the Backups tonight in the Prudential Center as the Sabres meet New Jersey.
Devils coach John MacLean announced Friday that veteran Johan Hedberg will get his first start of the season in place of Martin Brodeur, while Patrick Lalime might make his second start of the year for Buffalo because it will be the Sabres' third game in four nights.
Hedberg, 37, beat the Sabres for Pittsburgh in the 2001 Eastern Conference semifinals and is 12-2-2 against Buffalo in his career. Lalime got his first start in last Saturday's 4-3 loss to Chicago, making just 17 saves on 21 shots.
Sabres defenseman Shaone Morrisonn took part in the team's optional morning workout in a limited role, his first skate with teammates since suffering a groin injury Oct. 13 against the Devils.
"It's getting better every day so that's really positive," said Morrisonn, who is probably at least a week away from returning. "I don't know if I caught a rut in the ice or what happened that night. But I felt that pop and I couldn't really move. It hurt to walk for a couple days but from a week ago, it's making great progress."