Spezza on waiting list

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

Predict only this about Jason Spezza's return to the Senators lineup: He'll almost certainly be back before Martin Havlat.

He will not, however, be climbing down off the shelf sooner than Brandon Bochenski.

Unless trained dogs can sniff out the witch doctor playing voodoo games with a Spezza doll, Ottawa fans who haven't seen the star centre play in person since Dec. 17 will now have to wait a little longer than his expected return for tonight's tilt with the San Jose Sharks.

"Tweaking" a frustrating and uncommon injury during rehab Monday, Spezza will now miss the 10th game of the team's last 11 (he played one midway through the stretch in Atlanta) with what an MRI shows to be a torn tendon where the left pectoral muscle attaches to the biceps.

Bochenski, who suffered a separated right shoulder in Spezza's last home game four weeks ago, is expected back this evening to face the Sharks -- likely taking the roster spot occupied by Christoph Schubert, who pulled a hamstring in Tuesday's 7-2 win over Phoenix.

"It's just a matter of getting the legs and lungs back, and playing the way I was before I got hurt," said Bochenski, who has six goals and seven assists in 18 games.

"It's tough sitting out. It's the first time I've ever missed a month. Watching game after game after game can be mentally taxing."

He doesn't have to bother telling that to his former Binghamton centre. It's almost a surprise to see Spezza still with hair on his head -- he must feel like pulling out clumps.

With next-stall neighbor Chris Neil telling him "you don't have to worry about hitting people .... just put the puck in the net," Spezza suggested to approaching reporters in search of an update that they could "just use yesterday's quotes."

Then he used one from yesteryear.

"It's tough, but it's a process and you just have to be patient," said Spezza, sounding a little like former coach Jacques Martin before dropping his guard and adding, "I'm slowly running out of patience."

Earlier, he told another scrum: "I skated today, but it still kind of feels sore. Every time I have to be forceful, it hurts more. It's not strong, not ready. I'm aiming for whatever game is next."

That would be Saturday, in Edmonton.

The Senators could use Spezza's help against a strong San Jose team that's coming off a 6-2 win Tuesday in Boston, which it accomplished without Joe Thornton for all but 51/2 minutes. Thornton was ejected from his Boston homecoming after a first-period hit on Hal Gill that even Senators players who had watched the replay yesterday deemed a bad call.

Meanwhile, Ottawa halted a two- game losing streak by skinning the Coyotes, and wielding the sharpest knife was Daniel Alfredsson. In his return from a four-game absence caused by a cracked rib, the captain had two goals and two assists, particularly aiding a power play that went 3-for-9 after scoring just once while Alfredsson was out.

"Obviously, I was a boost to the team, but I wouldn't overplay it," said Alfredsson. "All four lines played well."

That may be so, but Bryan Murray also knows who butters his bread. While he doesn't expect to have Havlat (shoulder) until the playoffs at best, Murray said the return of Alfredsson stresses the fact that "good players make a huge difference in this game."

Hence, Spezza's absence continues to leave a gaping hole.

"He'll play when he tells me he's ready to play," said Murray. "Jason has not told me that.

"For an injury that was suggested would keep him out a couple of days .... for it to be dragging on, it's got to bother him. Every day we see him in practice ... but it doesn't appear he's getting an awful lot better. Not everybody plays at 100%, but you have to play at a level where you can contribute. And right now he knows he can't."


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