There’s a chance Jason Spezza could return during the second round of the playoffs, but Ottawa Senators head coach Paul MacLean is ruling out the possibility of him being ready to play in the next few days.
“No, not in my mind,” MacLean said on Saturday morning when asked about Spezza being available for the start of the second round. “I don’t know what the hope is, but he is in a rehab process. And that process has him skating. To me, it’s a long way away.”
Spezza has not played since undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back on Feb. 1. The club had initially hoped he would have returned in mid-April, but his rehabilitation process has taken a little longer than expected.
General manager Bryan Murray had stated on Friday that Spezza has begun skating with the club’s extra players – a sign that his rehabilitation process is trending in the right direction. The biggest issue for Spezza is that he hasn’t played since Jan. 27 and he could be thrown back into the lineup during the heat of a playoff series.
"He has to be able to play at the level that the team is playing at," MacLean said. "The team is playing at a certain speed and if you can't come in and play at that speed, you're going to slow things down. That could be a detriment to the team as well."
MacLean pointed out that other injured players such as Craig Anderson, Erik Karlsson, Jared Cowen and Milan Michalek had the luxury of returning to the lineup during the regular season - when the pace and intensity of the games were much lower.
"That's the important factor for me. Jason has to be up to speed to where the team is playing at. And the treadmill goes pretty fast in the second round of the playoffs," MacLean said.
But as cautious as MacLean sounded on Saturday, he was quick to point out that he would welcome back his No. 1 centre if he pronounces himself fit to play.
"Don't get me wrong: when Jason Spezza is ready to play, we want him to play," MacLean added. "Nobody wants him back in the lineup more than the coach. But at the same time, the coach wants to make sure he's ready and it's not a detriment to the team when he comes back."