BOSTON — It seems everyone wants back on the Senators’ bandwagon, including Jason Spezza.
The injured centre wasn’t supposed to return until after the Olympic break, but after taking part in the club’s skate at Scotiabank Place Friday, he expects to play Saturday afternoon vs. the Bruins in Boston.
Spezza already returned to the top line with Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson in practice. In another sign of Spezza’s imminent return to the lineup, centre Zack Smith was sent back to Binghamton of the AHL.
“I felt pretty good,” said Spezza, sidelined with a right knee injury since Dec. 14. “It’s a different pace out there with the guys. It’s tough because they’ve been playing so much. I haven’t really had the chance to practise with them that much.”
Spezza’s knee didn’t need surgery and there wasn’t a lot of swelling, so he was able to start rehab immediately.
“I’ve been able to have some good skates. I’m really happy. It’s obviously a bonus when you can get back ahead of schedule,” he said.
“I had a good day (Thursday) and good day (Friday), so I am itching to get back.”
That itch has been scratched by the Senators’ season-high five-game winning streak.
“When the team had lost five in a row (before the winning streak), I was probably more anxious to get back playing to help the team win,” said Spezza, who has five goals and 14 assists in 30 games.
“Now that things are going well, I’m excited to get back and be part of the good feeling. When you’re out, you find the positive in trying to motivate yourself to get back. A week ago, it was to get back to help the guys. Now, it’s to have even more fun to get back with the winning.
“As a player, you just hate sitting out.”
Spezza’s return gives coach Cory Clouston options. He doesn’t want to break up the trio of Mike Fisher, Ryan Shannon and Alex Kovalev, however, he did switch the other three lines in practice.
But Clouston is also wary of history repeating itself.
“(Spezza’s) an elite player. We’ve got to guard against — just like when we brought (Michalek) back and (Alfredsson) back — we’ve got to make sure that other guys don’t let their game drop,” he said.
“We’ve got to make sure that everybody keeps their game at a high level. (Spezza’s return) gives us a lot of options and a lot of offensive ability. His skill level is very high and when he gets back, he’ll be able to help our team.”
The Senators could be without D Anton Volchenkov, who suffered an upper-body injury in the 3-2 win over the St. Louis Blues Thursday, but did practise. Clouston called Volchenkov “questionable” for the Bruins game. If he can’t go, Alex Picard will suit up.