Jason Spezza is inching closer to a return, but he isn't ready for game action just yet.
The Senators centre, out with a knee injury, was on the ice Thursday practising with the rest of the players, but he wonít suit up against the St. Louis Blues tonight and isn't expected to play Saturday against Boston, either. It's more likely he will return Tuesday at Scotiabank Place when Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils come to town.
While Spezza is feeling much better, he wants to be careful and a few more days of rest isnít going to hurt. The final decision on when he returns will be made by Spezza in consultation with athletic therapist Gerry Townend and coach Cory Clouston.
ďIíve got to get a couple of good skates with the team first,Ē said Spezza. ďIím feeling pretty good. I think they just want to make sure that Iím all right and it doesnít become something that comes back. Iím getting excited to get back in there.Ē
Spezza wasnít originally expected to be back until after the Olympic break in February.
ďThe skates Iíve had the last three days have been pretty hard,Ē said Spezza.
The Senators will have winger Milan Michalek back tonight from a concussion that has kept him out seven games. He will start out on the fourth line with Jonathan Cheechoo and Zack Smith. Winger Shean Donovan will be a healthy scratch.
ďHeís been out for a few weeks. Sometimes itís tough to step right in,Ē said Clouston of his decision to keep Michalek off one of the top lines.
Goalie Brian Elliott, who made 29 stops in a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday, will make his third straight start. The Senators are on a four-game winning streak heading into tonight's game.