If the Senators are going to run their winning streak to a club-record eight games tonight, they are going to have to do it without centre Jason Spezza.
He will miss his third straight game tonight with a groin injury, which is stubbornly refusing to improve.
"It's still bugging me. It's not as strong as it needs to be for me to play," said Spezza, who suffered the injury in practice last week.
Spezza, who was the club's second-leading scorer when he was hurt, was careful to say he hadn't suffered a setback, but after trying to test it on the ice, he said the approach now is going to be to "take the foot off the pedal and just let it get stronger."
There is no timetable for his return, though he allowed yesterday the weekend is now a target.
"When it gets better, I'll be back," is the way he left it.
CHANGING ON THE FLY: With C Mike Fisher getting a rest day yesterday, Chris Kelly was skating between Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson at practice. Fisher and Randy Robitaille have both skated there lately in Spezza's absence. Senators coach John Pa ddock had completely shuffled his lines against the Bruins on Sunday night with Heatley and Alfredsson on different units to keep at least one of them away from Boston D Zdeno Chara.
THE BELL TOLLS: The Maple Leafs, 3-2-1 on the road this season, will get F Mark Bell back in the lineup tonight after he served the 15-game suspension handed down by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. Bell, the former 67, was suspended after pleading no contest in August to drunk-driving and hit-and-run charges stemming from an incident in September 2006. He must still serve a six-months jail sentence after the season. It will be his first game since May 7 with the Sharks ... Leafs F Kyle Wellwood is also expected to play tonight for the first time this season after having surgery for a sports hernia in September.
ALFIE STANDS BY DEAL: Alfredsson, who at times this season has been the best player in the game, said he won't be asking for a raise after seeing his teammates cashing in big deals. "I'm very happy with what I'm making," he said (even if it is in those crappy US dollars now). "I've always said when you sign a contract you have to live up to it." Alfredsson will make less next year ($5.45 million) than Heatley ($10 million), Spezza ($8 million) and Fisher ($6 million). Alfredsson has three option years after next season at $3.8 million. Remember, Alfredsson got a 24% pay cut with the new CBA.
A BIG PLUS: Senators D Chris Phillips leads the NHL in plus-minus with a plus-14 mark in 13 games, three better than D Bret Hedican of the Hurricanes and D Nicklas Lidstrom of the Red Wings. When it was pointed out he was on pace to be plus-80-something this season, Phillips shrugged it off. "One year I was on pace for 164 goals," he said. "That didn't work out, either." Still, it's a remarkable number when you consider Phillips and partner Anton Volchenkov (+8) play against the other team's top line. Phillips said their numbers benefit from the fact the Senators' top offensive line also plays against the other team's top unit and has been scoring goals. "There's also been times when I've jumped on the ice and we've scored a goal. I think I've easily had three or four phantom pluses," he said.
HEAR AND THERE: The Senators are always fearful of Leafs captain Mats Sundin. He'll see lots of Phillips and Volchenkov tonight. "If they care," said Paddock, "that's the ultimate compliment to an opposition player to have to play against those guys." Getting Sundin, the class of the Leafs for years, good or bad, from the Quebec Nordiques stands out as one of the best deals the Leafs ever made. The main guy going the other way was Wendel Clark and he wound up back with the Leafs a couple of years later, though that wasn't such a good deal. The Leafs gave up a No. 1 pick in the 1997 draft as part of the trade and that pick wound up being G Roberto Luongo (not that it did the Islanders much good).