Sens' Phillips cleared for takeoff against Flyers
Veteran blueliner recovers quickly from mild concussion, set for weekend return
So it is that Chris Phillips is set to return to the Ottawa Senators lineup in time for what should be a bruising home-and-home weekend series with the Philadelphia Flyers. The teams meet Saturday at the First Union Center in the City of Brotherly Love (1 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200) before a return engagement Sunday at Scotiabank Place (5 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200).
Thanks to their current 7-1-1 hot streak, the Senators (21-15-5) have risen to fifth place in the Eastern Conference. A sweep this weekend would allow Ottawa to slip past the fourth-place Flyers (23-11-4), though Philadelphia does hold three games in hand. If the playoffs started today, they'd be first-round opponents.
For the Senators, the return of Phillips — who sat out Thursday's 4-1 home-ice win over the Tampa Bay Lightning with a mild concussion — adds a steady veteran back into the mix. Phillps suffered the injury Monday against the New Jersey Devils, but recovered quickly over the last four days.
"I had a couple of workouts, passed all my tests yesterday, had a good skate today and felt fine afterward," Phillips said following Senators practice at the Bell Sensplex. "So I'd say that's cleared and good to go."
Head coach Paul MacLean called that result "good news" for his squad, adding that his expectation is that Phillips will be in the lineup on Saturday.
Phillips said the symptoms from his concussion were limited to headaches.
"After that, I did one workout where they kind of increased a bit, so that was the end of that day," he said. "After that, (his recovery) progressed really quickly."
Thursday's absence marked only the third game Phillips has missed since the start of the 2006-07 season. He also sat out a Dec. 27 home matchup with the Montreal Canadiens with an unrelated upper body ailment, ending a streak of 311 straight games.
"You don't want to sit out," said the 33-year-old Calgary native, who had one previous concussion while he was playing in the Swedish Elite League during the NHL lockout in 2005-06. "It's tough watching and I'm definitely excited to get back in there."
The 33-year-old Calgary native is on target to play his 1,000th career National Hockey League game on Feb. 9, when the Nashville Predators visit Scotiabank Place. That night also marks the return of popular former Senators centre Mike Fisher for the first time since he was dealt to the Music City 11 months ago.
Around the boards
Since coming on in relief of Alex Auld to start the third period of an eventual 4-3 overtime victory over the Calgary Flames, goaltender Craig Anderson has surrendered only five goals, fuelling Ottawa's current four-game winning streak. Anderson is slated to start Saturday in Philly ... Since being obtained from the Phoenix Coyotes, centre Kyle Turris has recorded six points in eight games, including his first goal in an Ottawa uniform on Thursday night. "The goal was a winning goal, and three of his assists are game-winning assists," said MacLean. "So those are, to me, tell-tale things that (say) when the game is on the line, he's a player that can contribute" ... Last season, the Senators' record sat at 16-19-6 through 41 games, meaning the current squad has posted a nine-point improvement. In 2010-11, Ottawa didn't win its 21st game until Feb. 26.