It's in coach's corner

Even if Jason Spezza says he can play tonight, that's no guarantee the Sens centre will be in the...

Even if Jason Spezza says he can play tonight, that's no guarantee the Sens centre will be in the lineup, accoriding to coach Bryan Murray. (Ottawa Sun File/Sean Kilpatrick)

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

Even if Jason Spezza says he can play tonight, that's no guarantee the Senators centre will be in the lineup against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

Senators coach Bryan Murray, who brought a harder edge to the rink yesterday, said he might not want to break up a winning lineup even if Spezza, who has missed 12 of the last 13 games with a pulled chest muscle, says today he's ready to return.

Murray, not pulling any punches, also said he wants to see his young centre spend more time in the gym to improve his strength.

The Senators are coming off a couple of hard-fought victories which saw some of the team's depth players come up with big efforts against the Edmonton Oilers and Minnesota Wild.

If Spezza returns, one of those guys would have to give up his sweater and Murray said yesterday he's not sure that's what he wants to do right now.

"The two games on the road taught us we can play hard and we can play good defence," he said. "We have a group of guys who can work hard ... I think the message to our group was when you play well, you play hard and you win, you probably deserve to play again.

"That's my philosophy right now. We'll see how the injured guys are, but when it comes right down to it, they have to tell me they're 100%."

The chances are practically zero Spezza would be able to tell the coach he's 100% this morning.

Spezza skated with his teammates in practice at the Bell Sensplex yesterday, but wasn't on a regular line.

GREEN SWEATER

He wore a green sweater along with winger Brandon Bochenski, nursing a sore shoulder.

"Green is go? I don't know," said Spezza. "I'm going to get some more treatment now. We'll see how I feel (today) and judge and go from there. It felt pretty good (yesterday), but it's hard to say how it's going to feel. There wasn't too much contact out there. It was a step in the right direction and we'll go from there.

"I don't want to be in and out of the lineup all year. When I do come back, I want to make sure it's for good. It's been frustrating. The last couple of days have been better because it's been getting better, but all in all, it's been frustrating."

Murray was asked if it's Spezza's call as to when he'll play.

"It's Bryan Murray's call," said Murray. "If he tells me he can play, then I'll decide ... but he hasn't told me he can play. He said he needed today to practise and then after practice he told me he needed to know how he would feel after he did the extra bit of work, so I'll just wait for him to let me know and the coaches will decide if he's ready to play."

Murray also made it clear he expects Spezza to improve his physical conditioning.

"This is a young man with a great career in front of him. The message has to be we need to do anything and everything we think that will make you a better player and strength is certainly something that will make you a better player," said Murray.

"We're going to push him real hard for the next little while to improve his body as well as his skating."


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