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Senators coach: Spezza 'a long way away'

by Erin Nicks

OTTAWA -- While the Ottawa Senators wait to learn the identity of their opponent in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, coach Paul MacLean made it clear center Jason Spezza is an unlikely participant.

The Senators' first-line center had surgery Feb. 1 to repair a herniated disc in his back and has not played since. He started skating with the team's extra players Friday, raising hope he could return at some point during the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"[There's no hope] in my mind that [Spezza] can start the next series," MacLean said. "I don't know what the hope is -- he's in a rehab process and it has him skating. To me, it's a long way away. He has to be able to play at the level of the team.

"We all know the quality of [Spezza] and the type of player he is. But at the same time, the team is playing at a certain speed. And if he can't play at that speed, it can slow things down. [His return] can't come at the detriment of the team. Don't get me wrong: When he's ready to play, we want him back. Nobody wants him back in the lineup more than the coach."

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