After four-game absence, Sens captain Spezza set to return


Ottawa will welcome back captain Jason Spezza tonight when it takes on the Avs in Colorado.

Spezza, who missed the last four contests with a hip injury, skated on a line with Zack Smith and Mark Stone during yesterday’s practice — forming the “SSS Line” — and will try to not upset the apple cart in his return.

The Sens have won four straight with Spezza out of the lineup, including Saturday’s 4-3 OT victory in Montreal. One of the players that’s stepped up in the captain’s absence is Mika Zibanejad, who has four points in his last three games and seems to have found chemistry on a line with Milan Michalek and Cory Conacher.

It’s been a nice stretch of play, but the Sens aren’t ready to rest on their laurels.

“The goal is to be in the playoffs at the end of the season,” said goalie Craig Anderson, per Sens Extra.

(Anderson will start versus the Avs tonight.)

“That’s been our goal since Day 1. Obviously we didn’t play the first half the way we wanted to, but things right now are starting to go in our favor. We’re working hard at it.

“We’re getting better every day. If you worry about what you can control, and that’s how we work and how we play, the end result, if we keep winning games, usually you end up in the playoffs because you’re winning more games than you’re losing.”

So good last season, Anderson’s numbers have fallen dramatically in 2013-14, from a save percentage of .941 to .904. But he’s been better lately, with five straight victories to show for it.

And according to coach Paul MacLean, “We’re not spending as much time in our own zone, or turning over as many pucks as we did earlier in the year, which makes it a little easier to manage momentum.”

NHL has no plans to change waiver rules

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Even with all the young players that have been healthy scratches this season, don’t expect the NHL to change its waiver rules.

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly told PHT in an email that it’s not something that’s “ever been considered.”

“For better or worse that’s what waiver rules are there for,” Daly wrote. “They force Clubs to make tough decisions.”

Today, Montreal defenseman Jarred Tinordi became the latest waiver-eligible youngster to be sent to the AHL on a two-week conditioning loan.

Tinordi, 23, has yet to play a single game for the Habs this season. If he were still exempt from waivers, he’d have undoubtedly been sent to the AHL long before he had to watch so many NHL games from the press box.

In light of situations like Tinordi’s, some have suggested the NHL change the rules. Currently, the only risk-free way for waiver-eligible players to get playing time in the AHL is via conditioning stint, and, as mentioned, those are limited to 14 days in length.

So the Habs will, indeed, need to make a “tough decision” when Tinordi’s conditioning stint is up. Do they put him in the lineup? Do they keep him in the press box and wait for an injury or some other circumstance to create an opportunity for him to play? Do they risk losing him to waivers by attempting to send him to the AHL? Do they trade him?

Your call, Marc Bergevin.

Related: Stanislav Galiev is stuck in the NHL

Ortio clears waivers, assigned to Flames’ AHL team

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Joni Ortio has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Stockton, the Calgary Flames announced today.

The 24-year-old goalie was always likely to clear, what with his dreadful numbers this season (0-2-1, .868),

But we suppose there was always the chance he’d get picked up, so it’s a relief for the Flames all the same. With a little more time to hone his game in the AHL, Ortio could still turn out to be a quality NHL netminder.

In a related move, veteran goalie Jonas Hiller has been activated from injured reserve. Hiller and Karri Ramo are the only goalies on the Flames’ active roster now.

Price placed on injured reserve; Yakupov to miss 2-4 weeks with sprained ankle

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Two injury updates in one post.

First, the situation with Montreal goalie Carey Price, who was hurt last night versus the Rangers.

According to Canadiens coach Michel Therrien, Price has been placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury. That means he’ll be out at least a week, though no exact timeline was provided.

“We don’t know how long Carey will be out, but for us it’s business as usual,” said Therrien.

Mike Condon will get the start tomorrow in New Jersey.

As for Oilers forward Nail Yakupov, he’ll be out 2-4 weeks after spraining his ankle last night in Carolina while getting tangled up with a linesman.

Getzlaf didn’t love the ‘dead’ atmosphere at Coyotes game

Martin Erat, Ryan Getzlaf

Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf wasn’t impressed with at least two things last night in Arizona:

1. His team’s performance in a 4-2 loss to the Coyotes.
2. The atmosphere inside Gila River Arena, where the announced attendance was just 11,578.

“It’s hard. When you come into a building … it’s dead,” Getzlaf told the O.C. Register. “Nothing against the fans. It’s hard to fill a big building like this and have the amount of people in it to build your energy. So you have to do it yourself. You have to be ready when you step on the ice. I thought we came out flat.”

Anaheim’s record fell to 8-11-4 with the defeat.

The Coyotes’ average attendance also fell, to 13,144 in eight games.