Finally, it's game on again for Filip Kuba
The veteran blueliner is set to make his long-awaited return to the Ottawa lineup tonight, when the Senators face off against the Bruins in a Northeast Division showdown at TD Garden in Boston (7 p.m.). Kuba has been sidelined since breaking his right leg on the opening day of training camp in September.
"It's been a long time and I guess tonight's the night," Kuba said earlier this afternoon in confirming he'll rejoin the Senators lineup against the Bruins. "(His ankle) feels good enough to get in the game and be a part of the team, finally."
Kuba hasn't seen any game action since March 18, when he saw 19:12 worth of duty in Atlanta against the Thrashers. A few weeks later, back surgery cut short his 2009-10 season. The 33-year-old defenceman arrived at training camp in the fall in top shape and eager to get back into the fray, but that was put on hold when he went down in the opening minutes of his first on-ice session.
"When you're a hockey player, you want to play games and that's what I didn't do in the past (several) months," said Kuba. "I'm glad to be back ... As soon as I get in the game and into the battles, I hope I get over the hump and I'm not going to think about (the injury)."
While Senators head coach Cory Clouston is enthused about getting one of his top blueliners back into the rotation, he's also taking a cautious approach in terms of what to expect right away from a player who hasn't seen any game action in nearly eight months.
"We can't hope for miracles from (Kuba) right off the bat," Clouston said following the Senators' pre-game skate. "What we need is solid minutes and him keeping it simple. It's been a long time since he's played ... we can't expect too, too much out of him, but he's practised well and he's worked hard to get himself back into real good shape.
"We just have to have a real simple game from him."
Clouston will pair Kuba with Erik Karlsson
, a partnership that worked well for the Senators in the latter half of last season.
"They complement each other (well)," said Clouston. "They read off each other (last season) and they communicated well. Erik just has to play his game. He doesn't have to do anything different than he's been doing for the most part in the last eight or nine games and that should help Filip out."Around the boards
Kuba's return will make David Hale a healthy scratch tonight. Hale has provided a steadying influence since being recalled from the American Hockey League's Binghamton Senators on Oct. 21. "David came up and played very well for us and showed he can help our team out," said Clouston. "(Because of that), it wasn't a situation where we wanted to rush Filip back." ... Brian Elliott gets the start in goal tonight against the Bruins. It'll be his 100th career National Hockey League game, a milestone defenceman Matt Carkner
will also reach tonight ... Forward Alex Kovalev is two points shy of the 1,000 plateau.