Spezza 'tweaks' something

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:47 AM ET

Curious by his absence as the Senators wrapped up practice Wednesday was Jason Spezza.

The Senators' No. 1 centre left the ice with about 20 minutes left in the club's workout at the Bell Sensplex and didn't emerge from the training room to speak with the media back at Scotiabank Place.

Coach Cory Clouston said Spezza "tweaked" something, but wouldn't elaborate. That's not good news with the season opener against the Sabres fast approaching Friday night, which also kicks off a stretch of three games in four days.

"It's a little bit of a tweak. He should be fine. We just want to make sure that he's okay," said Clouston. "I'm not going to tell you where that tweak was, but he should be able to practise (Thursday)."

The Senators had better hope Spezza is ready to play against the Sabres, Leafs and Capitals on the long weekend. They can't afford to start the season without their top centre, who had a good training camp.

Clouston said Spezza, the centre of trade talk over the summer, has "evolved as a player."

"I think he's a little bit more experienced. He's had a child and I just think his whole outlook on life might be different," said Clouston. "To say that he is more focused this year, I don't think he was less last year ... It's just a process, an evolution.

"He wants to take on more of a leadership role. I'm happy with his outlook both on the ice and off the ice. I know he's excited for Friday."

The Senators did get some good news. C Mike Fisher (neck) and RW Chris Neil (leg), who both missed Monday's on-ice session in Petawawa, returned to practice. Fisher, who said it was best to take the rest, looked and felt fine in practice.

"I felt pretty good. I just wanted to make sure I took an extra day or so and be smart about it ... I'll be ready to go," said Fisher, who skated on a line with Nick Foligno and Alex Kovalev.

HALE DOWN IN DUMPS

D David Hale, who cleared waivers at noon Wednesday, left to join the club's AHL affiliate in Binghamton, where he'll suit up with the Baby Sens in their opener on Friday.

The 29-year-old has gone through a rollercoaster of emotions in the last five days. He wasn't among the final cuts and went to the team bonding at CFB Petawawa, but was told beforehand he'd be sent to Binghamton.

"I was disappointed. It came as a bit of shock. I knew the situation that I was getting when I signed the contract that I signed," said Hale, who will make $105,000 in Binghamton. "I still I'm part of the team. I just have to go down there and play as well as I can. I have to be ready and wait."

OFF THE GLASS

D Brian Lee will try to make the most of the chance he's been given, with Hale going down and fellow blueliner Filip Kuba sidelined with a broken leg. Lee will start the year playing with Matt Carkner. "I thought I had a really good camp," said Lee. "I'm just trying to work hard and get better every day. I'm just going to try to fill the void (left by Kuba). He's a great player and it's going to take a lot of guys to take up those minutes." ... Clouston confirmed Fisher and D Chris Phillips will continue to serve as alternates to captain Daniel Alfredsson ... G Robin Lehner was on the ice for practice, but didn't take part in drills. The Senators are hoping the paperwork to allow him to cross the border to report to Binghamton will be finished Thursday ... LW Jarkko Ruutu will ride a Zamboni down Elgin St. Thursday at 1:45 p. m to help celebrate opening night Friday.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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