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Spezza confident he'll play

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
The big subtraction isn’t going away anytime soon.

But when the Ottawa Senators hit the ice Tuesday night against the Washington Capitals, it’ll be all about much-welcomed additions instead.

Centre Jason Spezza is headed to Washington with his Senators teammates and is likely to play after missing the final two periods of Sunday's loss to the New York Islanders (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
The game at the Verizon Center in Washington (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200) will mark the return to the lineup of right-winger Patrick Eaves, who’s missed the last 24 games while recovering from a separated shoulder.

Centre Jason Spezza indicated yesterday he’ll also likely suit up for the game after sitting out the final two periods of Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders, courtesy of a bone-jarring hit by Isles defenceman Freddie Meyer.

Given the gaping hole up front that’s been caused by the loss of right-winger Dany Heatley (separated right shoulder) for the next six weeks, the Senators clearly want – and need – as many hands on deck as possible right now.

So it was that Senators head coach John Paddock admitted a sense of relief Monday at the prospect of heading to Washington with Spezza available again to team up with captain Daniel Alfredsson on the team’s No. 1 line.

“He can make a difference with one play in a game,” said Paddock. “A game (like Sunday’s) that is 1-1 for a long period of time … it’s those kind of players who can make (that) one play.”

Spezza is confident he’ll be good to go against the Capitals.

“I wouldn’t be going on the trip if I didn’t think there was a chance. And if I don’t play, it’s not the end of the world,” he said. “I feel pretty good. A little shaken, but not too bad.

“It’s probably general body soreness more than anything. Everything’s a little bit sore. Nothing feels great, but not bad.”

He called Meyer’s open-ice check the hardest he’s ever felt as an NHLer.

“Adam Mair hit me in junior one time and that was pretty bad,” said Spezza. “But that’s the hardest pro hit I’ve taken, definitely.”

Eaves, meanwhile, is itching to get back in the lineup for the first time since Nov. 21.

“It’s been a long time in coming and I feel like I’m good enough to play (Tuesday),” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll have my legs under me and bring a spark to the team… I’m just going to try to play hard and see what happens.”

Paddock, too, is eager to get a player he calls “a valuable contributor” back into the forward rotation.

“We really felt like his game was on an upswing when he got hurt,” said Paddock. “(Eaves) has got a real good stick as far as scoring. We hope and think when he gets his legs back under him in game conditions, that he’s someone who’s going to put the puck into the net with some regularity.”

Added Eaves: “I’m hopeful I can pick up where I left off. But you have to get back into the flow of things. You can’t just go 0-to-60 right away, but I know that going in. So I’m not going to be trying to do too much by any means. Just take it from the start and see how it goes.”

Any added scoring punch will be welcome given the absence of Heatley, the Senators’ two-time 50-goal man.

“Everybody has to step up when somebody’s injured,” said Spezza. “It’s a challenge when you take a 50-goal man out of your lineup, but I don’t think it’s a challenge we can’t deal with.”

Paddock isn’t sure yet who’ll line up alongside Spezza and Alfredsson. He went with Randy Robitaille in that spot against the Isles but suggested Monday that Eaves could wind up seeing some time there. Chris Kelly has also been a strong fit with the big boys.

“I’m not sure of the lines. I mix them up at the best of times,” said Paddock. “I hope we win 10 games in a row and whoever plays there stays there.

“There’s going to be a little bit of a revolving door trying to find (the right fit) … Hopefully, somebody grabs the bull by the horns when they’re given the opportunity.”

Ray Emery will return to the Senators net against the Capitals, who are 3-0 against Ottawa this season.

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