Spezza and home ice need to be difference makers for Senators | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaSpezza and home ice need to be difference makers for Senators

Posted: Sunday, May 19, 2013 | 11:33 AM

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A returning Jason Spezza and a return home may be what's needed to get the Senators back in their series with the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 on Sunday. (File/Getty Images) A returning Jason Spezza and a return home may be what's needed to get the Senators back in their series with the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 on Sunday. (File/Getty Images)

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Three storylines for Game 3 between the Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday night (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET). The Penguins lead the East semifinal series 2-0.

Three storylines for Game 3 between the Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday night (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET). The Penguins lead the East semifinal series 2-0.

1. How much of a lift will the return of Jason Spezza give the Senators?

Spezza returns to action after he underwent back surgery in late January. He immediately upgrades the talent level and should be able to help the Senators cause, especially on the power play with his playmaking.

Spezza is excited about playing again after nearly four months on the sidelines. His back seized up early in the regular season. He managed a solid start in the production department with two goals and five points in five games, but the pain became too much. The decision was made for Spezza to undergo his second operation on his back to mend a herniated disc.

This is the fourth player the Senators have welcomed back in the past few weeks to the lineup from a long-term injury. For the most part goalie Craig Anderson has been good, but defencemen Jared Cowen and Erik Karlsson have yet to return to form. The Senators need Spezza to provide a spark.

He is expected to centre Milan Michalek and Cory Conacher tonight.

2. The Senators need more from players not named Spezza and Karlsson.

The best line for Senators in the first two games, arguably, has been centre Jean-Gabriel Pageau between Colin Greening and Erik Condra. It's time for captain Daniel Alfredsson, centre Kyle Turris and Michalek to get their act together.

History is not on the Senators' side. In the seven previous times they have dropped the first two games of a series, they have yet to storm back to win. If the Senators want to alter this trend, they need their top offensive talent to contribute and lead the way.

3. Can the Senators turn around their game in the friendly confines of Scotiabank Place?

The Senators have been dynamic at home this season. They enjoyed the fourth best home record in the East at 15-6-3 in the regular season and went a perfect two-for-two against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round. They will need to continue their playoff perfection at home tonight if they have any hope on upsetting the Penguins.

"The good thing for us is we know we play well at home," Alfredsson said. "I believe it's going to be a different look for us." 

Home teams have won seven of the first eight games in the second round to improve to 37-18 (.673) overall in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs. The last time home teams had a winning percentage of .600 or higher for an entire NHL postseason was in 1993, when they went 52-33 (.612).

Projected lineup for Ottawa

Forward:

Daniel Alfredsson - Kyle Turris - Jakob Silfverberg

Cory Conacher - Jason Spezza - Milan Michalek

Colin Greening -- Jean-Gabriel Pageau -- Erik Condra

Zac Smith - Mika Zibanejad - Chris Neil

Defence:

Marc Methot -- Erik Karlsson

Jared Cowen -- Sergei Gonchar

Chris Phillips -- Andre Benoit

Goaltender:

Craig Anderson

Projected lineup for Pittsburgh

Forward:

Chris Kunitz -- Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis

James Neal -- Evgeni Malkin - Jarome lginla

Brenden Morrow -- Brandon Sutter -- Matt Cooke

Tanner Glass -- Craig Adams -- Tyler Kennedy

Defence:

Brooks Orpik -- Paul Martin

Kris Letang -- Matt Niskanen

Deryk Engelland -- Douglas Murray

Goaltender:

Tomas Vokoun

Follow Tim Wharnsby on Twitter @WharnsbyCBC

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