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Spezza return could come as early as Game 3

by Chris Adamski /

PITTSBURGH -- It won't be for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Friday night, but Jason Spezza continues to inch closer to a return to the Ottawa Senators lineup.

The team won't rule out the chance his 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs debut will come Sunday.

Coach Paul MacLean said he expects Spezza to join the team for what figures to be an optional practice in Ottawa on Saturday. Spezza, who hasn't played since Jan. 27 because of a back injury that required surgery, has been skating on his own in Ottawa in recent days and MacLean reported the center is making progress.

"We will see him [Saturday] and we'll go through [Saturday's] practice and the pregame skate for Sunday and we'll see where it is," MacLean said after the morning skate Friday at Consol Energy Center. "But if he's available to us, you know, it's Jason Spezza. We're going to have him in the lineup if he's available."

Spezza, the No. 2 pick in the 2001 NHL Draft who has spent his entire 10-year career with the Senators, has been limited to five games this season. He had two goals and three assists and a plus-3 rating in those January contests to give him 621 career points in 611 games.

Without Spezza for most of the season, and without reigning Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson for a stretch of 2-1/2 months because of injury, Ottawa surprised by staying in contention. Karlsson came back for the final week of the regular season, and the No. 7 seed Senators beat the No. 2 Montreal Canadiens in the conference quarterfinals.

Spezza's return would provide a boost for a team that enters Friday night's game trailing the No. 1 seed Penguins, 1-0, in the best-of-7 series.

"We will want to see where Jason is since he's been skating in Ottawa," MacLean said. "I know I'm going to be there to watch it. I might not be on the ice again -- but I'll be there to watch it. And we'll make an assessment of it from there."

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