PITTSBURGH – As the Ottawa Senators packed their hockey bags for Pittsburgh following practice Monday, Jason Spezza left the dressing room with his equipment still hanging in his locker stall.
And when the Senators boarded their afternoon charter to Pennsylvania, Spezza stayed behind.
“He’s going to stay here and skate with Luke (Richardson) and the Black Aces,” said Senators coach Paul MacLean. “He’ll get better skates and a better opportunity to continue to progress in his rehab.”
Clearly, the Senators are opting not to rush back their No. 1 centre or to have him serve as a distraction when the series opens in Pittsburgh. Spezza hasn’t played since Jan. 27 and had back disc surgery on Jan. 30.
It remains possible that Spezza could play when the series returns to Scotiabank Place for Games 3 and 4.
“It’s up to him and Paul,” Senators general manager Bryan Murray said during Monday’s practice. “We’ll have to see what stage (of recovery) he’s in. I didn’t get a chance to talk to Jason after (Sunday’s) workout, so I don’t know how he feels. If he can come in and play better than a couple of our guys, then I guess we could do that, but he’s got a tough job ahead of him with (Jean-Gabriel) Pageau, (Kyle) Turris and guys like that.”
THE POWER OF PENALTY KILLING
When the Senators finished off the Canadiens in Game 5 last Thursday — thanks in large part to Turris’s second period shorthanded goal last Thursday — Erik Condra said the team used its penalty killing for momentum.
Now, however, they face the much more daunting task of playing against a power play featuring marquee name after marquee name.
“Everybody out there is a name,” Condra said with a laugh. “You’ve got to be aware of everybody.”
Condra says the Senators will stick to their own system as much as possible, but “tweaks” are necessary to deal with the Penguins’ strengths.
“They have a lot of strengths. They move a lot. That’s how they have their success. Teams get lost in their movement.”
Milan Michalek returned to practice Monday, back at left wing on a line with rookie Swedes Mika Zibanejad and Jakob Silfverberg. The Senators’ other forward lines remained the same as how they finished against the Canadiens: Cory Conacher-Kyle Turris-Daniel Alfredsson; Matt Kassian-Zack Smith-Chris Neil; Colin Greening-Jean-Gabriel Pageau-Erik Condra; Guillaume Latendresse-Jason Spezza-Peter Regin.
At Penguins practice Monday, Pittsburgh sported the following lines: Pascal Dupuis-Sidney Crosby-Jarome Iginla; Chris Kunitz-Evgeni Malkin-James Neal; Brenden Morrow-Brandon Sutter-Matt Cooke; Craig Adams-Joe Vitale-Tyler Kennedy; Beau Bennett-Jussi Jokinen-Tanner Glass