The Ottawa Senators will have to play without their No. 1 centre for the foreseeable future.
Jason Spezza will be sidelined with a right shoulder injury that will keep him away from the ice for the next few weeks.
The encouraging news for the Senators is that the injury should not require surgery and Spezza should be able to return this season – although it will likely be after the NHL All-Star break.
“It’s going to be a while. I’ve never hurt my shoulder before, so there’s kind of a lot of grey area right now,” Spezza said on Monday morning, with his right arm in a sling. “It seems like it’s going to be fine without surgery. But it just happened, so it’s still fresh. We’ll get a better idea in the next week or so.”
Spezza injured his shoulder when he fell awkwardly into the boards after being hit by Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang early in the second period of Sunday’s game. He immediately left the ice in significant pain. He watched the television replays of the hit and believes that there was some carelessness on the part of Letang.
“I thought it was a little bit dirty. He doesn’t have to push me there. My back is to him the whole time and I’m going for the puck,” said Spezza. “I think even he realizes that he pushed me and he tries to catch me I think. The league will look at it I’m sure.”
While Spezza is having an off-year with just nine goals and 20 points, he is the club’s most offensively-gifted forward.
And this season, he has been killing penalties and taking key face-offs, which means filling his void will be a significant challenge.
“We’re just going to need other guys to step it up," said head coach Cory Clouston. "We’re not going to be able to have a call-up or one particular player fill his shoes. We need to do this by committee. If everyone can raise their play by four or five per cent, we can over compensate for that.”
The Senators do have a couple of options.
Peter Regin, a natural centre who has been playing on the wing, could be moved into the middle of a line with Milan Michalek and Ryan Shannon. Under that scenario, the club could call-up Zack Smith to play on the fourth-line wing.
Alternatively, the Sens could re-call centre Corey Locke, who is currently second in AHL scoring with 38 points, and have him move into Spezza’s role in the top-six.
“I hope I get to play a little more and I’ll do my best to try and fill that role, but it’s a big jersey to fill out. I’ll do my best if I get the chance,” said Regin.
The Senators next game is on Wednesday night when they host the Carolina Hurricanes.