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Michalek returns for Senators against Devils

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean confirmed Friday prior to pregame warmups that left wing Milan Michalek will return to the lineup to face the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.

MacLean said Michalek will be reunited with top-line center Kyle Turris and right wing Daniel Alfredsson to open the game. The 28-year-old has missed the past 24 games with a knee injury. He has two goals and 10 points in 15 matches in 2012-13.

"We're hoping he can bring speed, leadership and his ability to score," MacLean said during his pregame media scrum. "He's been a very consistent player throughout his career, and he's the type of player you can put on the ice in any situation; power play, penalty-kill or 4-on-4. He's a very valuable part of our team, and we look forward to having him back in the lineup."

Michalek will replace Matt Kassian. With Michalek moving up to the top line, Guillaume Latendresse will play left wing on the third line with center Zach Smith and right wing Chris Neil.

"The Devils aren't known for being overly acrobatic when it comes to fisticuffs … they're a team that just continues to come after you shift after shift," MacLean said. "But we feel that this gives us an opportunity to play four lines all night long."

Earlier, Michalek announced he was ready to return.

"It's been long. It's tough to watch the guys play. I'm happy to be back," said Michalek, who told the media he alerted MacLean he was ready to get back on the ice. "He knows that I'm ready. I should play [Friday]."

Michalek hasn't played since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery March 19. Friday marks the second time this season he has made a much-anticipated return from injury. Michalek, who has been limited to 15 games, returned from another knee injury March 6 after missing 10 games. He had two assists in two games before being told he would need surgery.

Ottawa certainly could use Michalek, who started the season with a six-game point streak. While the club has overcome numerous injuries this season, most notably to all-stars Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson, they've won despite scoring very few goals. Before winning 3-1 against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, the club had scored seven goals in its five-game losing streak.

The Senators enter Friday sixth in the Eastern Conference, but average 2.38 goals per game, 23rd in the League. Michalek has two goals in 15 games this season but had a career-best and team-high 35 last season.


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