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Spezza practices, but still uncertain about return

Sunday, 05.12.2013 / 1:51 PM / Stanley Cup Playoffs

By Erin Nicks - NHL.com Correspondent

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Spezza practices, but still uncertain about return
Ottawa Senators forward Jason Spezza is practicing with the team Sunday for the first time since undergoing back surgery in early February.

OTTAWA -- Ottawa Senators center Jason Spezza skated with the team Sunday for the first time since Jan. 27, when a herniated disc in his back forced him to undergo surgery.

Spezza, clad in a grey jersey alongside the other "Black Aces" took part in a complete practice and led the stretches, leading some to speculate if the return of the 29-year-old was imminent.

"It's been a long year for me and it felt good to get some reps in," Spezza said. "It was definitely a good step. Truthfully it's hard to say [how close I am]. I've been skating with the ‘Black Aces' for a bit. The whole reason for getting back out there was that I'm getting ready to do some hard practices over the next couple of days to give me a bit of a gauge to see where I am personally. I've made improvements over the past couple of weeks that have allowed me to get to this stage."

With different reports earlier in the season suggesting that Spezza could return, the center hedged the question regarding setbacks, only admitting that there have been "ups and downs" in his recovery.

Spezza was also unsure whether he would be travelling with the team: "I need to sit down with [coach Paul MacLean] to decide what's best for the team -- to travel or not, distraction-wise. I want to be sure I'm getting the best possible skates, too.

"I have to have confidence in myself that I'm going to be able to help the team -- they've played really well. The only way I want to come back is if I can help. Me, coach and [general manager Bryan Murray] will talk, and if my body's ready and I'm healthy enough. I'm not going to say I'm going to come back if I'm not going to help us. [Today] was a start. I don't think I'm ready to play yet, but it's a start. That's why I'm really going to push myself in the next three days. [My back] may tell me it's not ready to play, but it may respond really well. I'd be lying if I tried to give you a straight answer on when I'd be ready. I don't think anyone can."

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— David Ekblad on his son's [Aaron Ekblad] journey to the NHL, signing with the Florida Panthers