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Robitaille a centre of attention

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
The injury bug has officially taken a huge bite out of the Ottawa Senators’ No. 1 line.

Centre Jason Spezza confirmed after Thursday’s game-day skate that his injured groin hasn’t healed enough to let him suit up against the Atlanta Thrashers tonight at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., A-Channel, Team 1200).

Whether he’ll be available on Saturday night, when the Boston Bruins provide the opposition, also remains up in the air.

“I don’t know yet about the weekend,” said Spezza. “We’ll just have to see how it feels the next couple of days. It’s gotten a little bit better than it was at first, but it’s still a little too early. It only happened (Tuesday, during practice), so there’s not too much change.”

Spezza said he hopes to try a “light skate” on Friday to check the injury’s progress.

“Right now, we’re in a wait-and-see mode,” he said. “It feels like it’s getting a little bit better but if I do quicker stuff (in workouts), it still hurts.

“We’ll have a better idea once I get on the ice.”

With Spezza out, Randy Robitaille will at least start the game between wingers Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson. Head coach John Paddock said it’s also possible Chris Kelly or Mike Fisher might see duty on the top line.

“Injuries are always going to happen,” said Alfredsson. “We’ll do whatever we can … some people will get more ice time to pick up the slack. We’ve got so much depth on this team that I don’t see it as a problem (in the) short term.”

Added Heatley: “Hopefully, Spezz is back soon. But we’ve played with a lot of different guys over the last couple of years. Whoever it is, we’ve just got to keep skating well, keep getting the puck in and generating some offence.”

Tonight’s game marks the return to the lineup of centre Dean McAmmond, who hasn’t played since being the victim of a vicious hit by Philadelphia Flyers rookie Steve Downie during a pre-season game in September. McAmmond admits the challenge tonight will be more mental than anything.

“Physically, I’m okay, so that part will be fine,” said McAmmond, who’d been held back while his left shoulder fully mended. “I’m just expecting to go out and play a solid game, take care of things in my own end and give the guys on my line a chance to score. Just play my typical game, play solid at both ends of the ice and maybe kill a few penalties.”

Paddock agreed with that mindset.

“(McAmmond) has to get his feet back under him and feel comfortable,” he said. “The only way it’s going to happen is for him to get out there and play.”

When the Senators last faced Atlanta on Oct. 10 – a 3-1 road victory – the Thrashers were in the throes of an 0-6 start that cost coach Bob Hartley his job. They’ve gone 4-2 since under interim coach Don Waddell, and winger Marian Hossa is healthy again. The former Senator missed the first matchup between the teams with a groin injury.

Hossa only has three points in nine games so far this season, but Paddock said “I’m sure it’s just a matter of time (for him to break out). Hopefully, that time isn’t tonight. He is a tremendous player.”

Game notes

Ray Emery makes his second start of the season in net. He earlier backstopped the Sens’ 4-1 victory over Florida on Oct. 20 … Winger Brian McGrattan is a healthy scratch tonight … 1,250 tickets remain for the game. Only 250 are left for Saturday’s visit by the Bruins.

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