The Spezza watch is on

We know where Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean’s eyes and ears will be Saturday afternoon.

PITTSBURGH – We know where Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean’s eyes and ears will be Saturday afternoon.

The eyes will be trained on the number 19 on the ice at Scotiabank Place, watching closely to see if number one centre Jason Spezza looks like he’s prepared to return for Sunday’s Game 3 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. MacLean’s ears, meanwhile, will be on full alert to hear the latest medical reports on how far Spezza has come in his rehab from back disc surgery.

“We’ll see him (Saturday) and we’ll go through (Saturday’s) practice and the pre-game skate for Sunday and we’ll see where he is,” MacLean said Friday.

“But if he’s available to us, you know, it’s Jason Spezza. We’re going to have him in the lineup if he’s available.”

Spezza scored two goals and three assists in the opening five games of the season before his back seized up. There was some limited discussion about attempting to play through the pain, but surgery was deemed the only real option.

It was originally thought Spezza could be back by early April, but he suffered a setback along the way. He began skating with the team’s reserves three weeks ago and practiced with the full team on Sunday and Monday, creating hope that he would be ready for the beginning of the series with the Penguins.

While the Senators have been here in Pittsburgh all week, Spezza has worked out every day with the club’s call-ups from Binghamton of the American Hockey League.

If Spezza returns Sunday, he will no doubt be greeted by an outpouring of support from a sellout crowd in excess of 20,000 at Scotiabank Place. He could provide a boost to the power play, which went 0-for-5 in the series opener Tuesday.

The other advantage with him playing on home ice is that MacLean has the last line change, giving him some control over what line and defence pair Penguins coach Dan Byslma chooses to use.

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