Dany's a dish man

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

In the absence of centre Jason Spezza, winger Dany Heatley has been in charge of the cookie jar.

Heatley has been distributing the biscuits -- he has seven assists in the six games Spezza has missed with a groin injury -- a fact not wasted on Spezza, who pronounced himself ready to return for tomorrow's game against the Buffalo Sabres at Scotiabank Place.

"(It's) because he's a dish man when I'm out. He's been passing. I want some of those when I'm in the lineup, too," joked Spezza. Spezza has just one goal in the 10 games he's played this season to go with a team-leading 12 assists.

It's interesting to look at Heatley's numbers when Spezza is in the lineup and when he's out. It's clear Heatley, coming off back-to-back 50-goal seasons, turns playmaker when Spezza is out.

In the 10 games he played this season with Spezza in the lineup, Heatley had seven goals and four assists for 11 points while taking 37 shots (an average of 3.7 a game).

In the six games without him, Heatley had but one goal, but he boosted his assist output to seven. He took 14 shots or an average of 2.7 a game.

Heatley was actually more productive without Spezza, averaging 1.33 points a game against 1.1 points a game with Spezza in the lineup.

Spezza said his groin gave him no problems in practice yesterday.

"If the game was tonight, I'd play," said he said after practice and an off-ice yoga session yesterday. "We'll see what happens (today). It looks like I'll probably be in the lineup (tomorrow). It's pointing in the right direction. Monday, I couldn't go as hard. It still gave me a little bit of pain. (Yesterday), there was no real pain, so it felt better."

Senators coach John Paddock said a decision on the lineup will be made today. He said he's not sure that he will reunite Spezza with Heatley right away.

"I've liked the way Heatley has played," said Paddock when asked about his scorer's lack of goals lately. He had just one while Spezza was out, but it should be pointed out he didn't score in the two games before Spezza was injured, either.

That leaves Heatley with just one goal in his last eight games.

"I'm not concerned about it," said Paddock. "I'm concerned with wins."

Heatley's lukewarm goal-scoring stretch isn't out of the ordinary, with or without Spezza in the lineup. He's a streaky scorer. In a stretch of seven games at this time last year, he had just one goal. In a stretch of 13 games last year in December, he had just two goals.

Consider this: There were 46 games last year in which Heatley did not score. He got his 50 goals in 36 games.

Paddock said splitting Heatley and Spezza up can give them "a little kick start mentally." In Heatley's case, it means having to change his game a bit, which he has shown he is more than capable of doing.

Mike Fisher has been filling in for the most part between Heatley and Alfredsson while Spezza was out.

"If (Paddock) keeps them together, I've got no problem with that," said Spezza.

"John seems to think it keeps us honest a little bit by splitting us up a little bit. I think at times you can get into a little bit of a rut where you're relying on the other guy to play well if you're having a bad game.

"I think he likes to mix things up a little bit. Obviously, I'd prefer to play with the same guys all the time and get used to them."


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