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Senators have options on defense if Gryba can't go

by Chris Adamski

PITTSBURGH -- While not flatly ruling hulking defenseman Eric Grybe out for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Ottawa Senators coach coach Paul MacLean said the team has contingency plans for who might take Gryba's place.

"If Gryba's not available, [Mike] Lundin and [Andre] Benoit are here with us," MacLean said after an optional practice Wednesday at Consol Energy Center. "[Patrick] Wiercioch, right now, I'd say is not available with a lower-body injury, but we'll have discussions on that."

Gryba left the ice after a collision with Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik late during the second period of Pittsburgh's 4-1 victory in Game 1 on Tuesday. The Senators said he has an upper-body injury that will be evaluated.

Gryba, who served a two-game suspension for a hit to Montreal Canadiens forward Lars Eller during the conference quarterfinals, did not take part in Wednesday's practice. He had two goals and four assists in 33 games this season, his first in the NHL.

Benoit, who appeared in 33 games during the regular season, had an assist in Game 2 against Montreal. Lundin has yet to appear in this season's Stanley Cup Playoffs after playing in 11 games during the regular season.

Wiercioch did not miss any games during the regular season because of injury but has been limited to playing 1:47 during Game 3 against the Canadiens.

Another Senators player who remains in Ottawa and seems extremely unlikely to play Game 2 is center Jason Spezza, who has not played since Jan. 29 and underwent back surgery.

MacLean said the fact Spezza continues to skate is progress. But the coach downplayed any suggestion Spezza could join the team in Pittsburgh prior to Game 2, even if he is feeling better.

"Yes, the final say is when the player comes in, says he's ready to play, but if the coach and medical staff doesn't agree with the player, then the player doesn't get a chance to play," MacLean said.

"Those are the rules that we're guided by, and then in this case in point I think Jason still has some hurdles to get over before we get to that point with him coming in saying he's ready to play, that we would allow him to play."

When pressed on if there was any chance Spezza could be close to returning to game action, MacLean said, "Right now he is in Ottawa and he's skating, and we're here and we're going to play Game 2."

The Senators' other star player who missed a large majority of the regular season because of injury, defenseman Erik Karlsson, will appear in his 10th game Friday since returning from a lacerated Achilles.

Despite 10 points in nine games (including a goal and five assists in six games during the Stanley Cup Playoffs), Karlsson is not playing at the level he did before his injury, MacLean said.

Karlsson, the reigning Norris Trophy winner, had five goals in 14 games prior to his injury.

"I don't think his play is close to where it was when he was injured," MacLean said. "He was a dominant, dominant player -- possibly the best player in the League at the time of his injury, and no, his play isn't up to that level and our expectation wasn't that it was going to be at that level.

"Our expectations for Erik are he makes us a better team because of his abilities to move the puck and help us on the power play to quarterback that. Those are the expectations we have. Our expectation is not that he's going to be the Norris Trophy Erik Karlsson; our expectation is to just come out and play and help his team win, and let his teammates help him."

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