OTTAWA -- The Ottawa Senators are hoping the return of Jason Spezza for Game 3 on Sunday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins may also mean the re-emergence of his linemate, Milan Michalek.
The struggles of Michalek during the Stanley Cup Playoffs have been difficult to ignore. The 28-year-old missed 24 regular-season games with a right knee injury, eventually requiring arthroscopic surgery in March to clean out debris around the joint. In 23 games, Michalek scored four goals and 10 assists. Since his return on April 12, Michalek has rarely participated in practices, electing instead to rest and recuperate.
The difficulties are evident on paper, as well. The Czech wing has scored two points in seven playoff games so far -- a goal in Game 2 against the Montreal Canadiens during their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series, and an assist in Game 3 of that series. Through 54 career playoff games, the wing has 12 goals and eight assists.
With the return of Spezza, Senators coach Paul MacLean hopes Michalek will regain his comfort level and perhaps his scoring touch.
"They've played well together [in the past]," MacLean said. "Sometimes, when you get one guy back, you get two guys. Our expectation is for [Spezza] to come in and play and it makes it easier on [Michalek]. They're used to [each] other, and they'll become familiar quicker."
MacLean has added Conacher to the left wing of the Spezza-Michalek line.
"[Conacher] will give them a bit of speed and tenacity," he said. "I'm not worried about [Michalek]. He is a good skater and a good player."