Spezza will have to match team’s level to return: MacLean

Before Jason Spezza is allowed to return, he will have to meet an elevated threshold of preparedness, coach Paul MacLean said Saturday.
Just being ready to play a regular-season game won’t be enough.
He’ll have to demonstrate he’s ready to play at a level required for the second round of the playoffs.
“He has to be able to play at the level that the team is playing at,” said MacLean.
“The quality of player that Jason is, we all know what that is, but at the same time the team is playing at a certain speed, and if you can’t come in and play at that speed, then you’re going to slow things down and that could be a detriment to the team.”
When Milan Michalek, Erik Karlsson, and Craig Anderson returned from their injuries, they were able to play at the level the team was playing, but they had an advantage in returning during the regular season.
The level of play is higher in the playoffs, especially heading into the second round.
“That will be an important factor for me,” said MacLean.
“Jason has to be up to the speed the team is playing at, and the treadmill goes pretty fast in the second round of the playoffs.
“Don’t get me wrong. When Jason Spezza is ready to play, we want him to play. Nobody wants him back in the lineup more than the coach.
“But at the same time the coach wants to make sure that he’s ready and that it isn’t a detriment to the team.”
Whether Spezza will make it back for the second round is still an open question, though.
While general manager Bryan Murray raised hopes on Friday that Spezza could be back for the second round, MacLean tempered them on Saturday by saying he does not have much hope that Spezza will return.
“([There’s no hope) in my mind that (Spezza) can start the next series,” said MacLean.
“I don’t know what the hope is – he’s in a rehab process and it has him skating.
“But to me, it’s a long way away.”
Out since he had back surgery on Feb. 1, Spezza has entered the next stage of his rehabilitation and is now skating with the Black Aces, the reserve players
Certainly the schedule is in Spezza’s favour.
Depending on how long the other series go, the Senators might not start their next series until Wednesday or Thursday.
That will effectively give Spezza several more days to get ready.
He’d be particularly welcome on the power play, which has struggled in his absence to score.
It was better in the first round against the Montreal Canadiens, with an efficiency rate of 24 per cent, good for fifth among playoff teams.
But during the regular season, it was 20th at 15.9 per cent.

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