Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean was pressed and pressed on the status of star centre Jason Spezza Wednesday morning.
He offered little more than the fact that Spezza is “still being evaluated” and that he won’t be playing against the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday at Scotiabank Place.
“We’ll have an update as it becomes available,” MacLean said.
When asked if it could be an injury that sidelines Spezza for an extended period, the Senators coach said, “we’re waiting on the evaluation. We don’t know.”
When the topic of Spezza possibly having an out-of-town expert check out his injury – as was the speculation during Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals – MacLean was again not forthcoming.
“I’m not sure,” he said. “He’s being evaluated.”
The Senators reluctance to provide additional information is fuelling concerns that the injury could be serious, perhaps related to his back, and that Spezza could be missing from the lineup for awhile.
Spezza has had issues with his back in the past. He had surgery following the 2006 season and missed action late in the 2007 season when a back problem occurred while he was carrying groceries.
Should Spezza be gone for a lengthy period, making the playoffs becomes a major challenge for the remainder of the lineup. He had two goals and three assists in the Senators first five games and finished fourth in NHL scoring last season, with 34 goals and 50 assists.
In the short term, pressure shifts to Kyle Turris. Turris is off to a strong start, with four goals and two assists, and will start Wednesday’s game on a line with Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson.
“He’s a guy that you can’t replace,” said Turris. “He’s one of the best players in the league. If we have to go without him, we have guys that step up every night. Collectively, as a team, we have to come together and find ways to win.”
Mika Zibanejad, the 19-year-old centre who was named first star in Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals, will be back in the lineup.
The victory over the Capitals improved the Senators record to 4-1-1. The Canadiens, however, have been an early-season surprise and are on a four-game winning streak, including a 4-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets Tuesday.
The Senators will catch a break, however, as number one goaltender Carey Price is expected to take a seat in favour of back-up Peter Budaj, who will be seeing his first action of the season.
Craig Anderson, who leads the NHL in both goals against average (0.98) and save percentage (.967) will start for the Senators.
MacLean says he wouldn’t disclose any lineup changes until following the pre-game skate.
The Canadiens welcomed defenceman P.K. Subban to their morning skate Wednesday – his first skate with the club since signing a two-year contract extension – but he won’t play against the Senators.