Spezza backs down at practice

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

Jason Spezza is often expected to carry the Senators on his back.

Yesterday, it was a little sore.

The Senators centre left midway through practice yesterday with a back soreness, but told reporters he expects to be in the lineup tonight against Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals at Scotiabank Place.

Though Spezza needed some treatment training table, that's not going to be enough to keep him out of the lineup. He said the decision to leave practice was precautionary.

"I just felt a little tight coming to the rink," said Spezza. "When I got out there for practice, I just didn't feel good. There was no point really in straining it in practice, but I think I will be good (tonight)."

The Senators will be down at least winger Shean Donovan in their final game before the all-star break. Donovan will miss the game after he suffered a lower-body injury when he fell on a turn during fastest skater race in the Senators' skills competition Sunday.

Defenceman Jason Smith, who missed practice because of a lower-body injury, is questionable for the Caps game.

The Senators are expected to call up winger Peter Regin from Binghamton today.

"I hope I'm not going to be out that long," said Donovan, who lost an edge and went tumbling into the boards. "It's a good thing I was wearing a helmet, but I always do."

Defenceman Anton Volchenkov, who has resumed practising with after suffering a shoulder injury on Jan. 3 against the Maple Leafs, still isn't ready to return, but should be able to play next Tuesday against the Devils.

LOOKING GOOD

Senators coach Craig Hartsburg has been pleased with the trio of Antoine Vermette, Chris Kelly and Jesse Winchester. "That line is playing the right way," said Hartsburg. "They play the system. They come back hard. They play a smart game with the puck and they create chances because of it. They're good defensively and there's a lot of nights where we're playing them against the other team's best players. They're very responsible and through that responsibility they're creating scoring chances. It's nice to see them score and get rewarded, but they've done some really good things." Vermette's play has improved dramatically, picking up nine points in his last 13 games.

OFF THE GLASS

Senators G Brian Elliott will make his fifth straight start tonight. Elliott was scheduled to play in the AHL all-star game next week, but it appears he'll be busy stopping pucks in Ottawa. "He's been really good at times," said Hartsburg. "He's still a young goaltender and there's probably things at this level that he hasn't seen before. But I believe that he has adapted pretty good." ... Senators GM Bryan Murray has been working the phones trying to find a new home for G Martin Gerber. It's believed the Senators contacted the Islanders to see if they would be interested in Gerber with G Rick DiPietro out for the season and losing out on G Wade Dubielewicz, who New York signed but was claimed on waivers by the Blue Jackets. The Islanders will likely stick with Gs Joey MacDonald and Yann Danis for the remainder of the season. The other options for the Isles in goal could be to bring in Dany Sabourin, who was told not to report to the Oilers after being dealt there last weekend by the Penguins, or deal for Curtis Sanford from the Canucks, now that Vancouver has Roberto Luongo back. Gerber, who has about $1.7 million US left on his contract, might be an affordable option if the Senators were to recall him on re-entry waivers ... The Senators had no interest in Florida D Cory Murphy, who was picked up by Tampa yesterday on re-entry waivers. The Senators still believe that D Brendan Bell is a better option than Murphy, a Kanata native.


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