Spezza won't play against Thrashers
There'll be a serious shortage of star power when the injury-addled Senators and Atlanta Thrashers meet Saturday in Ottawa.
The afternoon matchup (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 2 p.m. ET) opens a Hockey Night in Canada triple-header. Later, the Toronto Maple Leafs visit the Montreal Canadiens (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 6:30 p.m. ET), followed by the Detroit Red Wings against the Calgary Flames (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 10 p.m. ET).
The big news in Ottawa is that Jason Spezza won't play. The Senators playmaker will miss his second straight game with a suspected back injury that the team has officially labelled an "upper body" problem.
Spezza, who has eight assists in 10 games but is still looking for his first goal, was scratched from Thursday's 5-2 loss in Tampa Bay.
Senators coach Cory Clouston said after Friday's practice that the team won't rush its top centre back.
"We're trying to fix this so it's not a continuous two steps forward and one step back," said Clouston, who has Peter Regin taking Spezza's spot on the line between Milan Michalek and Jonathan Cheechoo.
"It's mutual with the doctors, myself and Jason. We just felt this is what was best for the team in the long run. We need him as healthy as possible."
Ottawa (6-3-2), which is opening a four-game homestand, is also missing Anton Volchenkov. The Sens' top defenceman is out a few more weeks after hurting his right elbow in Wednesday's 4-3 road win over Florida.
Atlanta (4-4-1) may have even bigger problems. The Thrashers are playing without star winger Ilya Kovalchuk, who's expected to miss three to five weeks with a broken foot.
Kovalchuk, tied for fifth in the NHL with nine goals despite playing just eight games, took a shot off his right hoof in last Saturday's 4-3 home loss to San Jose.
Without its captain, Atlanta lost 4-3 to visiting Washington on Thursday and has now dropped four in a row, all by a single goal.
"We can't put ourselves behind the 8-ball," said centre Rich Peverley, who replaced Kovalchuk on the top line against the Capitals. "We have got to manage the game better."
With files from The Associated Press