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Senators hoping for to boost from Michalek return

by Neil Acharya

TORONTO -- The Ottawa Senators will get a much-needed boost when they face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday as Milan Michalek returns to the lineup after a 10-game absence. Michalek injured his knee in the pre-game warm-ups prior to a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 13.

"It's been a while; I'm really excited," Michalek said. "It took me a few weeks, I was rehabbing, but now [my knee] feels good. Hopefully I can provide some offense that has been missing. I'm going to try not to put too much pressure on [myself].

The Senators have struggled offensively this season, entering Wednesday 29th with 2.13 goals per game.

"Milan brings a veteran presence and experience that we definitely need," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "His speed and offensive ability is going to help us, give us more offensive depth. That is a great addition."

Michalek had two goals and six assists in 13 games prior to his injury, and is coming off a career-best 35 goals last season. He will start the game on the top line, with Kyle Turris at center and Alfredsson at right wing.

With goalie Craig Anderson still out with a sprained ankle, Jason Spezza still recovering from back surgery and star defenseman Erik Karlsson lost for the season with an Achilles injury, Turris feels Michalek's return will provide the team with much-needed positive energy.

"It's a morale booster," Turris said. "He led the team in goals last year. Having a guy like him back for a game tonight is huge."

It will be the third meeting of the season between the Senators and Maple Leafs and it will mark the regular-season debut of Ottawa forward Mark Stone.

Stone, 20, says he wants to follow the lead of players like Eric Gryba and Dave Dziurzynski, who have been thrust into full-time roles after starting the season in the American Hockey League.

"There is a lot of guys that have played in [AHL] Binghamton this year up here, that is great for me," Stone said. "It is a lot more comfortable coming in here and seeing them do so well. I just want to kind of follow up and just play my game."

Stone skated in one game during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He was recalled from the Binghamton Senators on Monday after totaling eight goals and 13 assists in 38 AHL games this season.

Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs remain without forward Matt Frattin, who is recovering from knee surgery. Frattin was on the ice for the morning skate, but said he wasn't ready to play just yet.

"It's still not ready," he said. "It is something you can't rush with having surgery a couple of weeks ago. That is probably the hardest part, sitting back when you know you want to play but you are just not ready."

Frattin has seven goals and three assists in 10 games this season.

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