Duo's smoking between pipes

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:29 AM ET

In a strange sort of way, Anthony Guadagnolo and Matthew Spezza are making Danny Battochio a better goalie.

At least that's how Battochio, the injured No. 1 goalie for the 67's, likes to see his current situation while mending on the sideline with a separated shoulder.

Guadagnolo and Spezza have delivered some outstanding performances in recent games, which is something that the team's top goalie hopes to use as motivation to play just as well -- or better -- when he returns to the net as early as next week.

"Even if I don't have competition, you don't want to go out there and embarrass yourself," said Battochio.

"You want to be on top of your game all the time, because you know there's always someone watching you here. If you don't play well, you know that they're going to criticize you."

Battochio aggravated a shoulder injury three weeks ago during a game in Belleville, but the 67's have barely missed a beat in net with Guadagnolo and Spezza as substitutes.

Against Brampton on Sunday, Guadagnolo was outstanding. The netminder stopped 39-of-40 shots during the first two periods, helping the 67's to a 6-4 win over one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.

On the previous night in Kitchener, Spezza made 33 saves during a 3-3 tie against the Rangers, following up on a fine performance Jan. 26 in Belleville where he stopped all 28 shots he faced after relieving Guadagnolo in the first period of a 2-1 loss.

"Goaltending has been the strongest part of our team all year long," said 67's coach/GM Brian Kilrea.

"Even though Danny got the shoulder injury twice, the good part is Anthony has come in and, now, Spezza, has come in and they have done a good job."

Guadagnolo will get a chance to duplicate last Sunday's effort when Brampton arrives for a grudge match tonight at the Civic Centre.

Spezza, who was dealt to Ottawa early last month, will start against his former team on Sunday when the 67's travel to Kingston.

IN THE CREASE: Kilrea said C Brad Bonello would likely play tonight despite missing the last two practices due to bronchitis ... Overage D Nick Van Herpt (ankle) won't play tonight and is questionable for Sunday's game in Kingston ... The team got a scare late during yesterday's practice when a puck hit the right knee of top scorer Chris Hulit. The veteran winger crumpled to the ice and needed help to get to the training room, but assistant coach Bert O'Brien said he'd be okay for tonight.


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