The Senators might have their star center back as they try to avoid a third consecutive loss Thursday night against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning.
After missing Ottawa’s past two games due to back pain, there’s a chance Spezza could return as the Senators (6-4-2) face Tampa Bay for the third time this season.
Spezza took part in a full practice Wednesday, but his status will likely be a game-time decision.
“I was pleasantly surprised with how I felt,” Spezza told the Senators’ official Web site. “I thought I’d feel worse. But we’ll see how it goes. It’s going to be more (about) how I recover.”
After scoring 100 goals the past three seasons, Spezza has eight assists through 10 games, but no goals. Despite the drought, the Senators missed Spezza while being outscored 8-3 in two losses without him.
Spezza has nine goals and 17 assists in 21 games against Tampa Bay.
Ottawa recorded a season-high 51 shots, but only Mike Fisher(notes) scored on Atlanta goaltender Ondrej Pavelec(notes) in a 3-1 home loss Saturday. Two nights earlier, the Senators had 23 shots in a 5-2 defeat at Tampa Bay.
“We did some good things and worked hard, but just didn’t get some of the breaks we needed to,” said Fisher, who has five goals after scoring 13 all of last season.
Even if Spezza is unable to play and despite the recent loss in Tampa Bay (5-4-4), the Senators have dominated the Lightning at home of late, outscoring them 12-3 during a three-game winning streak at Scotiabank Place.
Milan Michalek(notes) had a hat trick and Daniel Alfredsson(notes) added three assists in Ottawa’s 7-1 home win over Tampa Bay on Oct. 15. Alfredsson has seven assists in his last four games versus the Lightning.
Pascal Leclaire(notes) faced 17 shots in the Oct. 15 win to improve to 2-0-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average against Tampa Bay. Leclaire, 4-3-1 with a 2.76 GAA this season, is likely to be back in net after making 18 saves Saturday against Atlanta.
Smith is 2-3-3 with a 3.64 GAA this season and 2-3-0 with a 2.98 GAA lifetime against Ottawa. Niittymaki is 5-5-2 with a 3.37 GAA versus the Senators.
“There’s nothing wrong with in-house competition,” coach Rick Tocchet told the Lightning’s official Web site. “The good thing is, those guys get along well with each other.”
Vincent Lecavalier(notes) had a goal and Ryan Malone(notes) added his ninth for the winner in overtime Tuesday to help the Lightning improve to 1-4-1 on the road. Malone has two goals and two assists against the Senators this season.
Lecavalier, who fell one short of a sixth straight 30-goal season in 2008-09, has two goals through 13 games this season. He’s failed to find the back of the net in his last five games against Ottawa.