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Spezza showing little injury rust in return to action

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Six weeks after being sidelined with a shoulder injury, Senators centre Jason Spezza is quickly making an impact in his return to the lineup. He had two points Monday in Vancouver (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).

For six weeks he watched from a distance, itching to help his struggling teammates more with each passing day.

And when Jason Spezza finally got his chance, he wasted little time shedding the rust induced by the wait for his injured right shoulder to fully recover.

In only his second game back in the lineup, the Senators' No. 1 centre was a major force during Monday's 4-2 loss at the hands of the high-flying Canucks in Vancouver on Monday night. He had a hand in both Senators goals in a 1:47 span of the second period, setting up Nick Foligno for the first before scoring the second himself.

"Timing is always an issue, but I felt better (Monday) and didn't really think about my shoulder at all," said Spezza, who made his long-awaited return on Saturday in Uniondale, N.Y., against the Islanders. "That's usually the No. 1 sign when you're coming back from an injury ... you can be a little tentative coming back but last night, I didn't really think about it at all."

All of that is good news for a Senators team that is winless in its last 10 games (0-8-2), a skid that started with a 3-2 loss to the Calgary Flames on Jan. 14 in Ottawa. The two teams meet again Wednesday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary (9:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200), the third stop on the Senators' current four-game road trip.

"Energy wise, he brings us a lot," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said of Spezza, his longtime teammate. "Being away for a little bit, he comes in and he has a fresher look than (those of us) who have been through a long grind. He's brought a lot of energy and he's played really well."

Added head coach Cory Clouston: "Offensively, (it was) a real solid game from him yesterday and I thought he did an excellent job on the penalty kill and in the faceoff department. I thought he had some good reads and put Milan (Michalek) in on a breakaway with a nice play defensively. He hasn't shown a lot of rust."

Spezza's current mission is a simple one — get the Senators back on the winning track.

"Just trying to salvage our season here and play with some pride and win some hockey games," he said after Senators practice at the Saddledome. "It's getting pretty frustrating to come out on the back end of a loss every night. The good efforts aren't cutting it anymore. You can only tell yourself that so much — we want to start winning games.

"We're a little embarrassed by how the season has gone and we're frustrated. We want to start winning games to feel better about ourselves in the room. Whether we win 1-0 or 7-6 or whatever it is, we just want to get a win. That's the only way we're going to get confidence back in our room."

Around the boards

Forward Jesse Winchester, who suffered a left knee injury when he got caught up with Canucks blueliner Andrew Alberts along the boards, is likely out for at least a week. "I don't know how long I'm going to be out," said Winchester. "I'm in a little bit of pain and I'll take it day by day ... I don't even know what happened. I just felt a pop, but it is what it is. I'll get better hopefully soon" ... Alfredsson didn't practise today and afterward, admitted to needing a maintenance day to deal with some "nagging" ailments. He isn't sure yet about his status for the Flames game. "We'll see tomorrow," said Alfredsson. "The last little while, it hasn't been getting much better. So today we'll take a day off and see how it is tomorrow and go from there."

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