A welcome return: Ottawa Senators centre Jason Spezza could be back in two, three weeks
NEW YORK — Centre Jason Spezza could be back in the Senators lineup before the end of the month.
“I’m optimistic,” said Senators general manager Bryan Murray.
“Two to three weeks seems like a fair time frame to at least project to.”
In turn, Murray hopes Spezza can return a sense of order to the team’s lineup hierarchy.
Spezza “puts everybody somewhat back in the right role,” Murray told reporters prior to the team’s optional practice at Chelsea Piers in advance of Friday’s game against the Rangers.
“We’ve had expectations of a couple of young guys that now fill the No. 1 centre spot — Kyle Turris, Zach Smith, at times, (Mika) Zibanejad — and it’s really unfair to them because that is not the role they’re here for.”
Spezza has been out of Ottawa’s lineup since Jan. 27 and had surgery on his back Feb. 1.
He visited a doctor in Toronto recently to ensure that the back discomfort involved muscles, and was not related to his injury or the surgery. Now, he’s cleared for a heavier training workload.
“It’s just a matter of getting himself in condition,” Murray said.
“He has to do the strength work to protect it.”
The plan is for Spezza to skate and train on his own for a few days, and then rejoin the group at practice.
DZIURZYNSKI ON MEND
In his first NHL fight, rookie Dave Dziurzynski was knocked out cold, and yet the rookie winger not only accompanied the team on the flight to New York, he was out eating breakfast at a local diner Thursday morning. How long he is out of action is not clear, but his early concussion symptoms are not severe.
Either Jim O’Brien or Kaspars Daugavins will step in for Dziurzynski.
Murray was disappointed that Dziurzynski was matched up with a heavyweight fighter in Frazer McLaren of the Maple Leafs, in the first minute of play at the Air Canada Centre.
“I believe there is a place in hockey for fighting, or protecting star players in some form, the one thing I hate is a staged fighting,” Murray said.
“And of course (Wednesday) night was a staged fight. David didn’t understand. He’s a young guy, he accepted a challenge, he didn’t have to accept it.
“I’m disappointed for the young kid that he didn’t understand who the opponent was, and that he didn’t have to do that for us or for his teammates.”
Interestingly, head coach Paul MacLean used a different word to describe the fight. He called it “premeditated.”
MacLean feels Dziurzynski was a target for Toronto’s tough guy.
“That was not a staged fight, it was premeditated by McLaren, that’s what he was supposed to do,” MacLean said.
“Dave Dziurzynski played very well in the previous two games against the Leafs, he had 10 or some body checks on the ice . . . there was nothing staged about that.”
If Dziurzynski was not aware of the risks of taking on McLaren, “shame on us, if he didn’t know,” MacLean said.
Bottom line, the Senators believe Dziurzynski has enough skill and size to play the game and be physical without fighting above his weight class.
When he was a boy growing up in Sweden, goaltender Robin Lehner knew Henrik Lundqvist as the great Swedish netminder that Lehner’s father, Michael, worked with as a goalie coach. Young Robin would go to the practices to watch, and Lundqvist gave him pointers.
“When I could barely stop a puck, he would go on the ice and help me out,” Lehner said.
Friday, they could be facing each other at Madison Square Garden.
“I don’t know if he’s playing or not, but if he is, it’s pretty cool,” Lehner said.
“I’m quite excited actually, it’s surreal.
“I’ve got lots of respect for him. He’s a great, great guy and a huge goaltender – one of the best if not the best in the world, for a few years now.
MEHOT HITS 300
Defenceman Marc Methot will be playing in his 300th NHL game on Friday. If it had to come on the road, historic Madison Square Garden is a perfect venue for the occasion.
“An injury last season kind of put me on the back burner for reaching that milestone,” Methot said.
“But yeah, it’s exciting. Now that you mention it, it’s a big step for me.”
All but 25 of those games were with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Ottawa native was drafted in the sixth round by Columbus in 2003.
ROOM TO ADD
Murray says the Senators have room to take on salary, if they decide to make an addition at the trade deadline. Of course, there is always the chance the club could shed some salary, as well.
“We’re a $50-million team,” Murray said.
“We won’t use all this space, but have the opportunity if we want to add a player.”
In a Chelsea Piers sports store: an Alexi Yashin New York Islanders jersey, only $200. Apparently, the same jersey could have been had for $130 last week, but he popped in and signed it, so the price went up. No takers yet in NYC.
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