Anthony Guadagnolo was proud to show off his newly designed goalie mask when it arrived yesterday.
"The Incredible Hulk," he said, chuckling as he referred to the character adorning the side of his face equipment. "That's me."
The 67's hope Guadagnolo can come up just as big when he plays tonight at the Civic Centre against the East Division-leading Peterborough Petes. It will be his first test in his most recent stint as Ottawa's No. 1 goalie.
67's coach Brian Kilrea confirmed yesterday that starter Danny Battochio will miss "at least 2-3 weeks" after re-injuring his shoulder in Wednesday's 3-1 win in Belleville. Battochio missed about three weeks earlier this season with a similar problem on the same shoulder.
"Whether or not it's just stretched muscles ... we'll have to wait and see," said Kilrea, who now looks pretty smart for acquiring netminder Matt Spezza before last week's OHL trade deadline. "It looks like (Spezza) became quick insurance."
Guadagnolo has played in 19 games this season and has been especially sharp of late, earning first star honours in relief against the Bulls and also in a win over St. Mikes.
"His confidence level is good," said Kilrea. "So is the team's."
And so is Spezza's. The younger sibling of Senators centre Jason, Spezza asked the Kingston Frontenacs to deal him -- he was languishing in Tier II -- and was thrilled to wind up in Ottawa.
"I think it's a great city ... my brother loves it here and I have a (twin) sister (Michelle) who goes to school here (at Ottawa U)," said the 18-year-old, who was set to join the CJHL's Smiths Falls Bears when Battochio went down.
"They have two really good goalies here and I guess I'm going to have to fight for a spot ... I feel I'm ready to play in the OHL."
The Spezza brothers are close and often practice together, says Matt, with shootout stakes being a dinner.
"J. knows my weaknesses and I know his," smiled Spezza, who appreciates the "challenge" of sharing a surname with one of hockey's brightest young stars. "Sometimes I'm buying and sometimes he is."
Kilrea says he has yet to decide when he'll give Spezza his first start, although Sunday's home game against the Frontenacs would be fitting.
At the same time, the 67's may want to ride Guadagnolo if he continues to play as well as he did in Belleville.
"This is a big stretch for me, for the team," he said. "The next two games are really big for us."
The 67's, who trailed Peterborough by seven points entering play last night, have played tougher since trade deadline acquisitions intended to give them more backbone.
"I definitely think some guys are playing with more confidence, just like when we had (Adam Smyth) Smitty and (Zenon) Kenopka," said veteran winger Jeremy Akeson. "The new guys have been a nice addition to the team.
"I definitely think we can catch (Peterborough)," Akeson added. "I think we can beat any team in our rink, and getting that first (in a long time) road win under our belt (Wednesday) is going to help us out."