As the NHL kicks off its second half, three Eastern Conference teams are all looking to get a boost from significant offensive players returning soon from injury, though it may be a little while yet before they get some of their stars back in their respective lineups.
Making Sens Of Things
The Ottawa Senators, who won only one game in the entire month of January, are hoping forward Jason Spezza will be back soon from his shoulder injury.
"I'm feeling good, it's nice getting out there with the guys and doing all the drills and feeling like it's getting stronger and stronger," Spezza said after practice on Monday. "Even today, I shot better than before the break, so definitely encouraging signs."
Spezza, who has nine goals and 11 assists in 32 games this season, said he has gotten a morale boost from the fact that he's feeling a little more normal these days.
"I'm coming back from injury so I want to play well, so mentally it helps. Physically, a few more practices probably would have been better for me, but I feel good and fresh," he said.
Not Ready To Go
Meanwhile, forward Mike Cammalleri will not be ready to return for the Montreal Canadiens when they return to actions Tuesday with a tilt against the Capitals in Washington.
Cammalleri has been out since January 19, also with a nagging shoulder injury, but he sounded optimistic that things are on the mend.
"Today's actually the best it's felt," said Cammalleri on Monday. "It's been a little tender for the last few days and today's the best it's felt, for sure.
"I didn't know where my progress would be so I just planned on meeting everybody here under very optimistic thoughts that I would be back early," he said. "It's nice to be with the guys here, back at it."
Slow And Steady
Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby has been continuing with light off-ice workouts in recovery from a concussion that has held him out of the lineup for nine games.
Crosby was on the ice on Monday for a quick skate but head coach Dan Bylsma said No. 87 will not progress to the conditioning stage until he shows improvement.
"That's part of what the doctors have prescribed is functional rehab and, again, progressing to the next level means he has to get better in certain areas and he's going through that process right now," said Bylsma on Monday.
Evgeni Malkin, who missed the last three games before the All-Star Game with a knee injury and a sinus infection, was back at practice but won't be playing on Tuesday against the Rangers.
Malkin's absence is apparently related more to the sinus infection than the knee.
"I feel strong, I've skated a couple of days and I feel great," said Malkin, who added that his knee felt fine.
Bylsma was accepting of the fact that injured players or players playing injured are a reality at the highest level of the game.
"Playing in the National Hockey League, you're rarely at 100 per cent, and dealing with that and playing your best given those circumstances is a challenge a lot of players go through on a yearly basis," he said.