PHILADELPHIA -- Expecting to be without his No. 1 centre, Bryan Murray plans on shuffling his lines when the Senators drop in on the Flyers tonight.
Most significantly, no Jason Spezza means his usual wingers, Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley, will be dispersed in an effort to spread out the offence.
Spezza pulled a pectoral muscle in the first period of Tuesday's 4-3 shootout loss to the Canadiens, and while he hoped to test the injury at today's morning skate, Murray yesterday figured he'll have to turn to a contingency plan.
During a practice held at the old Spectrum, he had Alfredsson skating with Bryan Smolinski and Patrick Eaves and Heatley alongside Chris Kelly and Vaclav Varada. While Mike Fisher will remain between Peter Schaefer and Chris Neil, a third new unit should see Antoine Vermette centre Brian McGrattan and defenceman Christoph Schubert.
PHILLIPS BACK FROM FLU
Moving Schubert up is made possible by the return of Chris Phillips, who missed Tuesday's game with the flu. Phillips, who sat up front with the media on the charter to Philadelphia so as not to contaminate his teammates, reported yesterday that he'll be good to go.
"It flushed out the system ... I had no energy," said Phillips. "Heater told me to milk it a little longer, so he could have his own room another night, but I'll be ready."
Spezza, who said he was feeling a little better yesterday, will have to be a lot better before Murray gives him the green light.
"He won't be playing ... as far as I know," said Murray. "My first indication was that he definitely was out. So right now, unless he tells me he's 100% to play, we're not going to play him."
Spezza said he was skating for the puck and felt a bit of a pull in the chest area and, trying to come back the next shift, found he had no strength during a blue-line battle with Habs centre Mike Ribeiro. During the intermission he applied some ice, but didn't feel any better in a second-period comeback attempt.
"It's a weird injury," said Spezza. "It's never happened to me before and I've never really heard of anyone pulling a pec.
"We didn't want it to get any worse."
TWO POINTS UP ON SABRES
The Senators, who are just two points ahead of the red-hot Sabres in the Northeast Division, lost their only first meeting of the season with the Flyers by a 5-3 score Oct. 30 at the Corel Centre. Ottawa goals that night came from a couple of defenceman -- two by Zdeno Chara and one from Wade Redden -- so maybe it's a good thing Schubert, who scored on a chance to play wing earlier this season, is getting bumped forward.
"The guy I'm tempted to move up is (Andrej) Meszaros. He wants to score goals, this guy, but it's not going to happen," Murray said of his 20-year-old rookie, who played as Chara's partner (often against star Alex Kovalev) and saw a whopping 26:26 of ice time vs. the Habs. "He's playing a lot of hockey for us. Playing quite well for us, too. Mez had a tough task, with Chara. I thought he played fine.
"I fooled around at practice with different guys," Murray added of his line experimenting yesterday and splitting up Alfredsson and Heatley. "Yeah, I'm a little tempted to ... we usually get somebody else kicking in offensively, but we're not getting a lot of goals from a lot of forwards right now. So maybe I need a little more balance, if I can find it."
HASEK TO START
Murray said he'll go with Dominik Hasek in goal against the Flyers, then play Ray Emery tomorrow in Long Island vs. the Islanders.
He hopes to see improved overall play in both games.
"Losing is always most disappointing. Certainly, after a 3-0 lead, it's a big issue," he said of the fumble in Montreal. "We created most of it ourselves. I felt that, at one stage of the game, I was basically, 'Wow, are we playing well.' We were all over them, working hard, took advantage of a power-play opportunity when we had to, then we turned the puck over. We turned it over twice in our own end to begin with, and it kind of expanded from there. We got over the red line on a couple of occasions, instead of putting the puck in we tried to make a play through three men ... they didn't score on any of those situations but they got momentum, probably just as importantly we started taking penalties.
"That really turned the tide totally at that point."
Said Heatley: "We were in complete control of the game, had a couple of big power-play goals and let them back in it. We know that whatever they got, we gave them. We all understand what happened. But having said that, we still had some chances to win the game and we didn't. We got one point, missed the second, and we'll move on."