Black Christmas for Sens

CHRIS STEVENSON, OTTAWA SUN

, Last Updated: 10:58 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- The storm clouds were gathering as they left Ottawa to come here, the threat of miserable weather for a long Christmas weekend darkening the sky.

The forecast is just as bad for the Senators and it doesn't look like it is going to improve for a month or so.

That's about how long leading scorer Jason Spezza is expected to be out of the lineup with a knee injury he suffered Thursday night against the Lightning.

Now the reeling Senators, losers of six of their last eight games, on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff picture, must find a way to cope without their biggest offensive threat for the foreseeable future.

"I hurt my knee and I'm out indefinitely," Spezza said yesterday, making a brief appearance in the dressing room as his teammates packed their bags for the trip here.

The good news is he didn't have the crutches he used to get out of Scotiabank Place Thursday night, but walked with a considerable limp.

While the nature of the injury was unspecified, judging by the comments, the Senators can probably expect to be without Spezza for at least a month.

He wouldn't even speculate when he might try to test it on skates.

CHECKED BY ST. LOUIS

"I've got no idea, really," said Spezza, who leads the Senators with 44 points and is tied for eighth in NHL scoring. "Not any time soon. We'll have to play it by ear. It's definitely frustrating. My back was feeling better and now this happens. It's part of the game. I'll rehab it and hope it gets better fast. It's not good, but it's not as bad as it could have been."

Spezza was injured when he was checked by Tampa's feisty little Martin St. Louis. There legs made contact and Spezza said he thinks his skate caught in a rut.

"He finished his check and all the pressure went on my left leg," said Spezza, "and I tweaked it a bit."

"It was just a bodycheck. It just looked like he got taken into the sidewall. A freaky thing. I'm not sure how he caught his leg or whatever," said Senators coach Bryan Murray. "I watched it over and over and it didn't look like it was a knee-on-knee (hit)in any way. (It was) a hit from the side. He must have caught a little bit of a rut as he got hit and it made it happen. It didn't look like it was anything vicious by any means."

The Spezza combination with winger Dany Heatley has been pretty much inseparable over the last couple of years. Centre Bryan Smolinski, no longer with the club, played some with Heatley when Spezza was hurt last year.

For today's game against theFlyers, it looks like Mike Fisher will centre Heatley and captain Daniel Alfredsson which pretty much leaves all the Senators' firepower concentrated on one line.

"This is a big blow for us," said Alfredsson of Spezza's injury. "It makes the road tougher."

REELING AT HOME

The Senators are 6-9 at home, own a losing record overall and were 12th in the Eastern Conference entering last night's play. The good news is they are still only two points out of the last playoff spot.

Murray's exasperation with the situation, the losses, the way games are lost and the injuries, continues to grow.

The Senators had just gotten star defenceman Wade Redden back in the lineup after missing nine games with a chest/shoulder injury Thursday night.

Spezza also leads the Senators with nine power-play goals and 20 points on the power play.

"It is frustrating to lose a guy like Jason who's a key guy on our hockey team as far as getting points and running the power play," Murray said.

"It's hard to win in this league if your best players get outplayed by the best players on another team and then you don't have anybody to step up on the third and fourth lines to make a play and get some points occasionally.

"That is the case right now with our hockey club."


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