OTTAWA (AP) -Senators center Jason Spezza appears ready to return to the lineup after his groin injury but won't necessarily rejoin Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson on Ottawa's powerful first line.
The Senators have played well during Spezza's six-game absence and lead the Eastern Conference with a 14-2 record.
Coach John Paddock may be reluctant to shake things up against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night. He also likes splitting up his top unit on occasion, and Spezza's first game since Oct. 27 - barring any setbacks - may provide more opportunity for that.
"It's not like it's a bad thing that they play together, I don't mean that at all," Paddock said after practice Tuesday. "But I think there's an advantage to them playing with somebody else."
Spezza has helped Heatley reach back-to-back 50-goal seasons. Heatley has just one goal in his past eight games.
"Obviously, I'd prefer to play with the same guys all the time and just get used to them," Spezza said. "I think me and Heater work well together. I like having the puck a little bit and he likes scoring goals and shooting one-timers."
Mike Fisher stepped into Spezza's spot on the top line and hasn't looked out of place. The Senators have gone 5-1 in Spezza's absence. Partly through his own request, Spezza has skated with a different combination of players at practice.
"We'll see what John has us do the first couple of games and what he does with the lineup," Spezza said. "If he keeps them together, I've got no problem with that."