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Spezza out for Senators, Briere back for Canadiens

by Arpon Basu

MONTREAL -- Ottawa Senators captain Jason Spezza will have to wait one more game before returning from his hip flexor injury.

With his teammates winning without him, there's really no rush for Spezza to get back.

Spezza will miss his fourth straight game Saturday when the Senators take on the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre seeking a fourth straight victory.

The Senators play their next game Wednesday on the road against the Colorado Avalanche, so missing this game gives Spezza an additional four days to rest and rehabilitate his injury.

"If we absolutely needed him to play the game we could have had him play the game," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "We just felt with four more days before we play in Colorado we should err on the side of caution. For sure the expectation is on Wednesday he'll be 100 percent and stay in the lineup. To play him tonight and have him get re-injured didn't make a whole lot of sense to us."

Spezza took part in his first full practice with the team Friday and said afterwards he felt good, but MacLean said he is not yet fully recovered to play, though he denied the team's success in Spezza's absence had anything to do with the decision to sit him out.

"Anytime you can get Jason Spezza back you're going to put him in the lineup, it doesn't matter what the team is doing," he said. "We just felt it wasn't 100 percent and we weren't going to put him in until he was 100 percent. On Wednesday, with the practice time, he'll be in for sure."

Spezza's continued absence also delays a decision that needs to be made about what to do with Mika Zibanejad when he returns.

Zibanejad has grabbed a lot of the minutes freed by Spezza's injury and has excelled on a line with Milan Michalek and Cory Conacher, with the three combining for 10 points in the three games Spezza has missed.

"[Spezza]'s a top player and someone has to step in somehow for him," Zibanejad said. "I feel like that's been the problem, we wait for him to do something spectacular and we're just sitting back and waiting. So this gives us a good picture for when he comes back and we just need to keep going and try to help him out."

As for the Canadiens, they will be welcoming a player back to the lineup, but he wasn't injured.

Daniel Briere was a healthy scratch in Montreal's past two games but he will play at center on the Canadiens' fourth line with Ryan White out with an upper-body injury.

Briere has 10 points in 29 games this season, though he has rarely had an opportunity to play in his natural position in the middle.

"I've always felt more comfortable at center, but that's not an excuse," Briere said. "No matter where I play, right now I'm just happy to be back in the lineup.

"It's important that I continue to believe in myself. I was scratched in St. Louis [on Dec. 19] and when I came back I felt I played well over the next three games. I had a lot of scoring chances, and I had a goal called back in Florida that I thought should have counted. Those are positive signs. I'm trying to focus on that and limiting my bad games."

Here's what the Senators and Canadiens lineups could look like Saturday:


Clarke MacArthurKyle TurrisBobby Ryan

Milan MichalekMika ZibanejadCory Conacher

Colin GreeningZack SmithErik Condra

Matt KassianJean-Gabriel PageauMark Stone

Jared CowenErik Karlsson

Chris PhillipsCody Ceci

Marc MethotEric Gryba

Craig Anderson

Robin Lehner

Scratched: Joe Corvo, Patrick Wiercioch

Injured: Chris Neil (lower body), Jason Spezza (hip)


Max PaciorettyDavid DesharnaisBrendan Gallagher

Rene BourqueTomas PlekanecBrian Gionta

Alex GalchenyukLars EllerBrandon Prust

Travis MoenDaniel BriereMichael Bournival

Andrei MarkovAlexei Emelin

Francis BouillonP.K. Subban

Douglas MurrayJosh Gorges

Carey Price

Peter Budaj

Scratched: Raphael Diaz

Injured: Ryan White (upper body), George Parros (concussion), Davis Drewiske (shoulder)

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