It was a busy day at the Ottawa Senators' practice Monday as they prepared to face their arch-rivals the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday - with players coming and going.
The bad news for the Senators was that Daniel Alfredsson was forced to leave practice early after tweaking an existing injury.
While head coach Cory Clouston would not reveal the full nature of the ailment, he feels that his captain should be fine to face the Leafs.
"He's not 100 per cent and he knows his body better than anybody," Clouston told reporters following practice. "He felt a little tweak, a lower-body (injury) but he should be fine for tomorrow."
There was also plenty of good news for the Sens as both defenceman Filip Kuba and goaltender Pascal Leclaire were back at practice with teammates and both are optimistic to make their return to the lineup later in the week.
Leclaire, who will serve as Brian Elliott's backup against Toronto after Robin Lehner was sent back to Binghamton of the AHL Monday, believes that he should be healthy enough to start within a week. However, he did not want to circle any game in particular on his calendar as to when he would make his full return.
"I don't want to get into that, if it happens great if it doesn't it's a panic button," said Leclaire, who has not played since suffering a groin injury on Oct. 17. "So far it feels good and I'm pretty happy where I'm at now."
Meanwhile, Clouston was optimistic that Kuba would be back patrolling the blue line sometime in the very near future.
"He should travel with us (to Toronto)," Clouston said. "We don't expect him to play - possibly Thursday but more likely Saturday is our goal we are shooting for."
The 33-year-old Kuba has yet to suit up for the Senators this season after suffering a broken leg during the pre-season. He would immediately bring some stability to a defence corps in desperate need of some veteran leadership.
One of the reasons the team's normally reliable defence unit has struggled has been the play of veteran Chris Phillips. The 32-year-old has long been considered one of the top shut-down defenders in the game; but has been plagued by inconsistent play thus far this season after losing long-time partner Anton Volchenkov to free agency in the summer. He has one assist and is minus-5 in 11 games this season.
"You tell him to simplify it and still that tendency is to try and make plays that aren't necessarily there," said Clouston. "It's not for a lack of caring or commitment or wanting the team to win in fact it's the opposite. Sometimes he puts too much of the burden on his shoulders."
Phillips admits that the pressure to perform has gotten to him thus far.
"You want to say go and play with confidence but it's not just something you go and pick up at the grocery store on your way," he said. "You try and block this stuff out and go and play with confidence. It's a funny game there are things that get in your head sometimes. It's tough to block them out. And that's what you have to do to get out of it and hopefully that starts for me tomorrow."