Jason Spezza is ready to roll.
The Senators centre took part in practice Thursday at Scotiabank Place and is set to return from the right shoulder injury he suffered Dec. 26 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Spezza will skate on a line with Nick Foligno and captain Daniel Alfredsson on Saturday night when the Senators start a four-game, eight-day road trip against the New York Islanders.
“I feel good. I’m excited to get back,” said Spezza, who has missed 15 games. “The guys haven’t been doing well. You can see the effort is there, but we’re just not finding ways to win games.
“Hopefully, I can come back and give a little bit of a jolt of energy, positivity in the dressing room and try to get us off on the right foot by getting back to getting a few more wins and having a good time around here.”
The Senators went just 1-10-4 without Spezza. He had only nine goals and 20 points in 32 games this season, but he logs important minutes in key situations.
Coach Cory Clouston said Spezza is a lightning rod for criticism when the Senators are struggling, but the team knows his contributions go well beyond goals and assists.
“He’s an easy target. He frustrates some fans at times,” said Clouston. “He does so many little things that people don’t realize and don’t show up on the scoresheet.”
Clouston said one example is faceoffs. Spezza has won an impressive 56.4% of his draws this season.
“We’ve lost a couple of games on winning goals that are a direct result of a lost faceoff,” Clouston said. “He’s generally very good in that area. He draws attention and relieves pressure off other guys. If he’s out there, the top defensive pairings (from the opposition) are out against him.”
Spezza said it has been tough to watch the team struggle in his absence.
“I never want to see the guys go through something like this,” he said.
Carkner skips skate
D Matt Carkner, a scratch against the Red Wings Wednesday, wasn’t on the ice Thursday because of a lower-body injury and Clouston isn’t sure if he’s going to make the trip. D Brian Lee has done a good job lately filling in when Carkner has been out.