Daniel Alfredsson was more than just the Senators' captain to the people of Ottawa as he became a respected and beloved figure in the city during his 17-season tenure.
That fact has never been lost on the 40-year-old as he thanked the fans and the franchise for the outpouring of support over the years, even when a contract impasse led to his surprising departure for the Detroit Red Wings in the offseason.
He'll face some of his former teammates for the first time Wednesday night as Detroit hosts Ottawa looking to avoid a third straight defeat.
Alfredsson was named captain prior to the 1999-2000 season and helped guide the Senators to their only Stanley Cup finals appearance when they lost to Anaheim in 2007. Contract negotiations stalled on multiple occasions, though, when Alfredsson decided against retirement following the 2012 playoffs.
He played out the final year of his deal last season, and after not receiving his desired offer signed a one-year, $5.5 million contract with Detroit.
Though his departure wasn't exactly pleasant and disappointed many in Ottawa, Alfredsson is experiencing a whirlwind of emotions heading into his first game against his former club.
"I think it will be a relief once the puck drops," Alfredsson said. "There will be a lot of emotion going into the game, but it's a bit exciting, too."
Alfredsson, the Senators' all-time leading scorer by a wide margin, has one goal and a team-best eight assists for the Red Wings (6-3-1). It's been a different experience playing with stars like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg rather than being the focus of attention with the Senators.
"I miss a lot about Ottawa," Alfredsson said. "There were no questions at the rink about being "the guy." At the same time, I also enjoy not being "the guy" and worrying about myself a little bit more, but it's not something I hide from. It's just two good teams going at it and I hope we can pull out a win."
Jason Spezza is second on Ottawa's all-time scoring list and has a team-high five goals this season. Spezza played 10 seasons with Alfredsson but the Senators' new captain said the team has moved forward.
"It's more (weird) for him," Spezza said. "We're used to seeing one guy move on and play for a different team and play against teammates you've played with. It will be different because it's Alfie, but I think it will be harder for him playing against Ottawa because it's the only place he's ever played."
Alfredsson will have to get used to facing the Senators as the teams meet four times as Atlantic Division rivals, including his return to Ottawa on Dec. 1. For now, he's focused on helping Detroit snap a two-game skid after it fell 1-0 in a shootout to San Jose on Monday.
Jimmy Howard, who went 1-3-0 with a 3.28 goals-against average in his previous four starts, made 27 saves. He's won each of his three career starts while posting a 3.00 GAA against the Senators, who had their two-game winning streak snapped with Saturday's 3-1 loss to Edmonton.
Chris Neil scored for Ottawa (3-3-2), which committed seven penalties. It has taken 19 more penalties than its opponents, by far the league's worst margin.
''Penalties are not something we're going to forget about,'' Spezza said. "We'll continue to talk about it until we start to take less penalties.''
Robin Lehner made 18 saves against the Oilers, but Craig Anderson, who is 3-1-2 with a 2.88 GAA, should be back in net for this contest.
Detroit will have Niklas Kronwall back from a two-game absence due to a concussion, but his defensive partner Jonathan Ericsson is expected to miss two weeks with a partially dislocated shoulder joint suffered in Saturday's 5-2 loss to Phoenix.
The Red Wings have won four straight meetings.