Michalek laces up for Sens practice

Ottawa Senator Milan Michalek during practice at Scotiabank Place. Wednesday December 21,2011....

Ottawa Senator Milan Michalek during practice at Scotiabank Place. Wednesday December 21,2011. (ERROL MCGIHON/QMI Agency)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:02 PM ET

Milan Michalek was the last one off the ice Wednesday.

The Senators winger was happy to be back practising with his teammates after suffering a concussion Dec. 13 vs. the Buffalo Sabres. But he's not sure if he'll be ready to return before the two-day Christmas break starts Saturday.

Michalek, the club's leading scorer with 19 goals, won't be ready to return Thursday as the club wraps a four-game homestand against Florida. There's a chance he could suit up Friday against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh.

"I feel good. It was my first practice with the guys and I feel great," said Michalek. "We'll see how it's going to feel. I just want to see how it's going to be (Thursday) because it was my first time practising with the guys."

Michalek was leading the NHL in goals when he was hurt, and remains among the leaders. He was in a five-way tie for second, one goal behind Steven Stamkos, heading into Wednesday's games.

"I skated pretty hard, but my conditioning has to be better as well. I'm going to take it day-by-day. I've had some good days, for the last three days, but you never know with a concussion."

This is the third concussion of Michalek's career, so he has to be cautious. The Senators aren't going to rush him back into the lineup, either.

"All I know is that if when you've got 19 goals out of your lineup and he says he can play, you'd probably like to have him in the lineup," said MacLean.

"(But) we're going to be careful and Milan is going to be careful to make sure he's ready to go. We're not just going to put him in to put him in just so he can say he got 20 (goals) by Christmas.

"But, if he says (he's ready to go) and he passes his baseline test and all that stuff, then we're going to follow the protocols, just like we did with Daniel Alfredsson. When all those things say that (Michalek) can go, then he'll go."

NO SUSPENSION FOR GAUSTAD

NHL VP of safety Brendan Shanahan has decided not to hold a hearing after reviewing the unpenalized hit from behind by Buffalo's Paul Gaustad on Ottawa LW Jesse Winchester in Tuesday's 4-1 victory.

Gaustad could get away with a $2,500 fine or even a warning. The Senators, meanwhile, will be without Winchester indefinitely with a concussion. He was at the rink Wednesday, but still feeling groggy.

"He still has headaches and everything that goes with it," said MacLean.

MacLean felt the hit warranted a second look.

"I thought it was a very dangerous play," said MacLean. "It was a bigger man hitting a smaller man, which is part of it, I believe but also the stick being across the hips and running up to behind his head was the dangerous part."

Winchester is a role player, but he has played a big role for the Senators. Injured in camp, he missed the first six games of the season but has been playing well since returning. His spot will be taken by Bobby Butler.

Butler, a healthy scratch after the arrival of Kyle Turris from Phoenix, has only two goals this season.

"(Butler's) worked really hard off the ice and with the puck. He's done really good things that way. He's a (plus-6) player on the team," said MacLean. "Unfortunately, the expectation is also that he's going to shoot the puck in the net and that hasn't happened for him."

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @sungarrioch


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