Spezza to return to Senators lineup for Game 3

Jason Spezza doesn’t have much time to return to form if the

Ottawa Senators want to extend their season.

The star forward hasn’t played since Jan. 27 after undergoing

back surgery for a herniated disk. He’ll rejoin Ottawa’s lineup

Sunday for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series with

the Senators trailing 2-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

”I’m excited to have a chance to play again,” Spezza said. ”I

feel ready to play.”

The 29-year-old will immediately add depth to a struggling

offense and power play.

”We’re excited about the skill that he brings back to our team

and we’re looking forward to it,” said Senators coach Paul

MacLean. ”We certainly feel that he’s going to give us some help

on the power play, for sure. He can help us quite a bit

there.”

The Senators’ power play has gone 1 for 7 through the first two

games.

Spezza’s minutes will be monitored, and MacLean suggested his

time on the ice could vary depending on the number of power plays

the Senators get.

Spezza is expected to line up with Milan Michalek and possibly

Colin Greening.

”He’s such a skilled playmaker that if you’re on the ice with

him you know to keep your stick on the ice because he finds a way

to get the puck to you,” Zack Smith said. ”When you’re playing

with guys like that, you’re just more prone to go to the net and go

to those areas and be more confident.”

Spezza hopes his timing comes back quickly.

”Basically I’m just going to go out and work hard and be

smart,” he said. ”I expect to play well.

”I wouldn’t play unless I felt I could help the team and

contribute.”

Spezza had two goals and three assists in just five games during

the regular season.

”It’s going to be important to be in his face right away and

make sure he doesn’t have time and space,” said Pittsburgh’s Kris

Letang. ”He’s got good hands, so he can make you look really bad.

So if you’re in his face and have a good gap, you have a better

chance of having success against him.”

The Senators are undefeated at Scotiabank Place in the playoffs

this year.

”We need to play to our identity,” MacLean said. ”We have to

try and establish our game first. What hurt us in the first two

games is not getting off to a (good) start, and we’re down in the

first three minutes of both games and catch-up hockey is losing

hockey.”

Despite being pulled after allowing three goals in Friday’s

game, Craig Anderson will get the start Sunday.

”They’re going to be desperate and we know this is going to be

the toughest test yet,” Sidney Crosby said. ”We need to start

well, but just a play a complete game and give ourselves a

chance.”