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Spezza's ready to roll

Tuesday, 11.13.2007 / 3:43 PM ET / Features
By Rob Brodie  -
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Spezza\'s ready to roll
The wait is almost over for Jason Spezza.

But whether the Ottawa Senators centre will still find himself in familiar company when he makes his much-anticipated return to the lineup remains to be seen.

Spezza has missed the past six Sens games with a groin injury, but he’s all but certain that stretch of inactivity will end Thursday, when the Buffalo Sabres arrive at Scotiabank Place for the teams’ first meeting since the Eastern Conference final back in May (7:30 p.m., A-Channel, Team 1200).

Dany Heatley (left) might not line up alongside Jason Spezza when the latter makes his expected return to the Senators lineup Thursday night.
“(The groin) felt better today than yesterday,” Spezza said after the Senators worked out Tuesday at Scotiabank Place. “All is pointing in the right direction.

“If the game was tonight, I’d play. We’ll see what happens tomorrow, but it looks like I’ll be in the lineup Thursday.”

Head coach John Paddock is counting on the same, and plans to give Spezza “about 15-18 minutes” of ice time against the Sabres. Not exactly No. 1 line stuff, but Paddock also hinted he might break up his top combination of Spezza, Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson.

“Periodically, I’m going to split them up, regardless of who we’re playing,” said Paddock. “Just to get a little kickstart mentally, because you get used to playing with somebody and you get used to playing the same situation and just waiting for opportunities.

“It’s not a bad thing the way they play together. I don’t mean that at all. I just think there’s an advantage to them playing with somebody else … That’s why we do it sometimes, just to keep sharp mentally. It’s something I’m going to consider.”

Mike Fisher, who’s filled the centre spot on the No. 1 line in Spezza’s absence, continued to skate with Heatley and Alfredsson in practice Tuesday. Paddock said Monday he’s been pleased with the intensity level Fisher and Alfredsson bring as a unit.

Spezza is ready for whatever transpires Thursday.

“I talked to John about not putting me on the (top) line (Tuesday), just in case I had to leave practice,” said Spezza. “If he keeps them together, I’ve got no problem with that and if he doesn’t, I’m sure I’ll talk to John about it tomorrow.”

The only hiccup in what would have been an otherwise healthy group Tuesday came early in practice, when Brian McGrattan departed with a case of back spasms. The big winger isn’t expecting it to be a long-term concern.

“It should be better for tomorrow,” said McGrattan. “Hopefully, it’s just a day thing.”

Paddock noted that goaltender Ray Emery, whose practice time Monday was shortened by the same problem, looked more like his usual self a day later.

“I thought he was better,” Paddock said of Emery. “He said he’s feeling a lot better.”

But Paddock indicated the setback, as minor as it appears to have been, will likely lead him to start Martin Gerber against the Sabres. It would be the fifth start in six games for the Swiss goaltender, who owns a league-high 11 wins to go with a stellar 1.73 goals-against average and .943 save percentage.

Less than 1,500 tickets remain for Thursday’s game.




1 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
2 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
3 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
4 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
5 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
6 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
7 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
8 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54


E. Karlsson 82 21 45 7 66
M. Stone 80 26 38 21 64
K. Turris 82 24 40 5 64
B. Ryan 78 18 36 5 54
M. Hoffman 79 27 21 16 48
M. Zibanejad 80 20 26 0 46
C. MacArthur 62 16 20 -6 36
M. Michalek 66 13 21 3 34
D. Legwand 80 9 18 1 27
A. Chiasson 76 11 15 -5 26
C. Anderson 14 13 8 .923 2.49
R. Lehner 9 12 3 .905 3.02