Sens won't rush Spezza

Jason Spezza is

Jason Spezza is "definitely improving," but isn't healthy enough to play yet. (TONY CALDWELL/Ottawa Sun file photo)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:19 PM ET

Long before the rest of the Senators reported for duty Wednesday, Jason Spezza and Filip Kuba were doing circles at the Bell Sensplex.

By the time the other players showed up after the Zamboni took a pass to clean the ice, neither Spezza (groin) nor Kuba (leg) took part in the 45-minute skate.

Spezza was listed as day-to-day after he was a last-minute scratch on Friday in a 4-2 Senators victory in Buffalo, but hasn’t played since. He won’t suit up Thursday night against the Panthers at home, either, but is hopeful for Saturday’s visit by the Bruins.

The club’s top centre will miss his fourth straight game and fifth overall since he was hurt just two days before the season opener.

However, Spezza was skating hard on Wednesday with Kuba, who is inching closer to returning from a broken leg. The session wrapped up with Spezza stretching before heading back to Scotiabank Place for treatment.

But he won’t return to the lineup until he’s fully ready.

“He is definitely improving,” said coach Cory Clouston. “It does no one any good, especially himself, when he’s out there starting at 75% and the game ends and he’s at 50% and he’s a scratch the next night.

“We need him when he can go out there and feel confident in his body and physically and he can go out there and play and not starting each game getting worse and worse and worse.”

Clouston admitted that Spezza might have returned too soon on Oct. 9 against the Maple Leafs — one day after he was scratched in the season opener. He could have used the time to rest, but was determined to return.

“He saw the team had lost the first game (2-1 to the Sabres) and he wanted to get in there and help,” said Clouston.

Without Spezza, the Senators have had to mix and match their line combinations. Mike Fisher has moved up to centre Milan Michalek and captain Daniel Alfredsson, while Peter Regin has been between Alex Kovalev and Nick Foligno.

During last Friday’s visit to Buffalo, it was Alfredsson’s trio that stepped up. Against the Coyotes, Kovalev had a three-point effort, while Regin chipped in with two assists. That’s what the Senators need — scoring from both lines.

They also need continued improvement and consistency from Kovalev, who scored his first two goals of the season on Tuesday. It appears that the Kovalev-Regin-Foligno unit has also developed chemistry.

Regin, in a surprising display for a 24-year-old in his second NHL season, took the opportunity to lecture the media over their coverage of the 37-year-old Kovalev’s early season struggles.

“He’s been playing well for the last couple of weeks,” said Regin. “Now, he scores some goals and everybody thinks he’s good. (The second) was kind of a rebound into an empty net and the (first), the goalie (Jason LaBarbera) could have saved that.

“That’s the way it works. He had a lot of chances in Buffalo and even against Montreal (Saturday). If he had scored there, you guys would have been positive. Sometimes it’s a tough business to be in. You get judged by the goals and the points you score. That’s probably the case with him.”

Speaking on the Team 1200’s post-game show Tuesday, Kovalev said he’d like to stay with Regin and Foligno long-term. That could all change once Spezza returns.

“For the time being, he’ll stay with those guys,” said Clouston. “They’ve played well. They have created some chemistry. We talked about needing some secondary scoring and we got our second line producing (vs. Phoenix).”

Until Spezza returns, the Senators need all four lines to keep contributing.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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