Spezza's groin passes first test

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:32 AM ET

The bad news is two guys didn't make it through Senators practice yesterday.

The good news is one of them wasn't named Jason Spezza.

While goaltender Ray Emery (back) and winger Dany Heatley (hip) both headed to the trainer's room before the final whistle sounded with minor discomforts, Spezza tested his sore groin until the bitter end, which isn't something he was planning on doing.

It was his first practice with his teammates since straining his groin in a skating drill Oct. 30.

It was a good first step, but he still doesn't know if he will be able to play Thursday night when the Senators host the Sabres. He's still having trouble accelerating to 100% (insert Spezza skating joke here).

Spezza said he's still experiencing some pain, which can't be a good sign. At least he's got another couple of days before he'll have to make a decision on the Buffalo game.

"The groin was a little bit sore as practice got going, but (my) wind felt pretty good. If I can take a positive from it, it's that my wind hasn't really left me. It hasn't been that long off so I don't anticipate that being a problem."

Senators coach John Paddock isn't sold yet.

While encouraged to see Spezza make it through practice, he said skating in practice and skating in a game are two different animals.

"He'll do more constant skating there (in practice) than he will in any game, but there's still a difference. It's constant skating," said Paddock.

"When you're playing a game for real, in competition for real, you stride a little bit harder, you stop a little bit quicker. In some ways this was harder, but there are certain isolated situations where it's not a game. That's where he'll have to make sure he feels comfortable."

Spezza will probably get a good indication of where he's at this morning when he gets up and finds out how his groin reacted to yesterday's test.

Meanwhile, Heatley's hip was bothering him, but Paddock said the winger could have returned to practice after getting some attention.

MORE PRAISE FOR ALFIE: Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson is one of Paddock's favourites and for good reason, of course. "It's his actions on the ice in every situation, game after game after game. He just plays every shift hard, every minute he executes. Without the puck he's such a good backchecker, puck pursuer, we call it 'tracking,' with his speed, quickness and anticipation," said Paddock. "Every example to the team of how we want our 'system' done without the puck, he could be involved in it all the time. He plays every situation like that at a high level and it's hard to imagine there's a better two-way player in the game."

AND FOR FISHER: In Spezza's absence, Mike Fisher has been playing between Alfredsson and Heatley at times, something Paddock wouldn't want to see if he was coaching against them. "I think he's been tremendous all along. There's such a high level of intensity and work ethic there. Obviously, he's a different kind of player from Jason as far as creativity and that. When Alfie and Fisher are on the ice together, the other team must cringe because they know there's going to be a work ethic there and a hounding of the puck."

THE PHILLIPS HELP OUT: Senators D Chris Phillips and his wife, Erin, are putting their support behind the 24 Hours of Tremblant, a ski marathon Dec. 7-9 which is expected to raise $700,000 for children's charities. "We're excited about it and wanted to help out," said Phillips, who has summered in Tremblant and is having a cottage built there. "To get involved with the community of Tremblant and then to hear that with the Senators Foundation we'll be able to distribute some funds here in Ottawa, it's a win-win situation." More information about signing up a team is available at www.tremblant.ca/24heures.


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