The Ottawa Senators received a boost prior to Game 3 of their series with the Pittsburgh Penguins as Jason Spezza will be in the lineup tonight as the series shifts to the Nation's capital.
The Senators leading scorer in the regular season did not practice with the team on Sunday but took the morning skate Monday and declared himself ready to go.
"I knew I had to skate today and see how I felt. I feel fine and I'll play," Spezza told reporters.
Ottawa may also be getting a bit of a surprise boost as general manager and head coach Bryan Murray isn't ruling out a return of Daniel Alfredsson to the lineup.
"We're going to talk again this afternoon and see where we go with him," Murray told reporters Monday. "I'm not shutting the door on it. He's the boss. If he feels he can play then he's in."
The Sens captain was injured in the second last game of the season after being blindsided by Maple Leafs' forward Mark Bell. Alfredsson skated for the first time by himself on Sunday.
The Sens will take any positive news that they can as the injury bug has taken a huge bite out of the team. In addition to Alfredsson and Spezza, centres Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly are suffering from knee and leg injuries respectively. Genernal manager and head coach Bryan Murray does not want the team to use injuries as an excuse.
"It dosen't matter who is out," Murray told reporters Sunday. "We should be able to play at a top level. Uniforms matter, players don't."
Scotiabank Place will likely be rocking tonight as the Sens attempt to dig themselves out of a 0-2 series hole after the Penguins took the first two games at home.
"I hope they give us a boost," said Murray. "I looked at all the games around the league the last couple of days and the towel waving and all the things that went on, they (the fans) don't play the game but they do give emotion and hopefully that would lift the players. . We hope that they'll help."'
In an attempt to shake up a top line that has been struggling offensively, Murray switched up his lines at practice Sunday as Dany Heatley was skating with Antoine Vermette and Cory Stillman. Murray is looking for a whole lot more from his stars as Heatley and Spezza have combined for only one point in the series while the Pens dynamic duo of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have 10 points between them in the first two games.
The Penguins, who are attempting to win their first playoff series since 2001, realize that despite the two games to none lead they cannot let up after seeing the Sens storm back from a 3-0 deficit in Game 2 to tie the score.
"They are going to be desperate but, for us, we have to match that," Crosby told reporters Sunday. "I think we have played with a lot of will and a lot of want the past couple of games. We just have to keep doing the same thing. We won the games but we deserved it and we earned it."
Special teams play has been massive thus far in the series as the Penguins have been firing on a 36% clip with the man advantage; contrast that with the Senators woeful 1-for-9 on power play opportunities. Although the Sens are at a distinct disadvantage the team is not ready to throw in the towel yet.
"We're down 2-0 but we're going home and we're looking forward to Game 3," Stillman told reporters Sunday. "If we win Game 3, it's a 2-1 series."