Spezza could return to lineup

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

The Senators could get a shot in the arm tonight.

No, not for H1N1.

This isn't Calgary.

Centre Jason Spezza, out for the last two games with what's believed to be back trouble, will likely make an unexpected return to the lineup to face the Tampa Bay Lightning at Scotiabank Place.

Spezza skated with his teammates Wednesday for the first time this week and if there was no setback overnight, he will be ready to take his place in the lineup.

ďI felt pretty good. I got through the whole practice and I didnít have to leave. The rest has definitely helped it, but the only way you can tell how itís going to be is by skating,Ē said Spezza, who is still looking for his first goal, but has eight assists in 10 games and has been good at both ends of the rink.

ďIt hasnít gone away completely, but itís been better. Itís a positive sign. Itís been hampering me all year. I just got the point where I didnít feel I could go on much longer without taking a bit of time off. Hopefully, weíve got it under control now and it doesnít become an issue for me.Ē

Centre Mike Fisher, second on the team in scoring behind captain Daniel Alfredsson, missed practice yesterday, but coach Cory Clouston said it was just to rest some bumps and bruises and he expected Fisher to be at his post tonight.

With Fisher not at practice, Spezza was reunited with Alfredsson, who had been playing with Fisher and Alex Kovalev. Regular linemate Milan Michalek joined Spezza on the left side. Rookie Peter Regin was between Kovalev and Ryan Shannon.

Spezza and the Senators have benefited from playing only one game in the last week. Spezza sat out the 5-2 loss to the Lightning last Thursday night in Tampa and the 3-1 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers Saturday at Scotiabank Place.

The light schedule has meant heís missed little playing time while getting time to rest up.

ďThe guys donít like the way the schedule has been because itís hard to get momentum and get a feel for the games, but for me, itís worked out well,Ē said Spezza.

ďIíve been able to sit out a week and only miss two games. If I donít play (tonight), itíll be 10 days with only missing three games. Iím pretty fortunate.Ē

Despite Wednesdayís positive development, both Clouston and Spezza said the centreís situation remains very much up in the air.

ďHe looked good, so as long as everything holds true to the way it was today, heíll play. Weíll make that decision (this) morning,Ē said Clouston. ďItís the type of injury you just canít put a time frame on it. I know you guys think we hold that stuff out, but we donít. Heís been progressing. He had a real good day (Tuesday) and he looked like he was real good (Wednesday).Ē

Spezza said heís ready to try playing with the hope it might prove to be its own therapy.

ďItís a matter of whether more time off is going to help,Ē he said. ďIf they think that more time off would cure me, then Iíll take more time off and make sure Iím 100%. I donít know how much better itís going to get. It might get better by playing and getting stronger that way, weíll see.Ē

The Senators schedule will pick up now with 12 games in the next 24 days, starting with Friday's.

Depending on how Spezzaís injury reponds, that suits him just fine.

ďIím a guy who likes playing every other night. Practices, you can only accomplish so much. Youíve got to get a feel for the game,Ē said Spezza.

ďWhen you get a chance to play every other night, you get a chance to build on your good games and put your bad games behind you quickly and try to make up for them. When you have four or five days in between, they linger a little bit.Ē


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