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Penguins notebook: Spezza will return for Senators in Game 3

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AP
The Senators’ Jason Spezza smiles during practice Saturday in Ottawa. Spezza, out since Jan. 27, is expected to lineup for Game 3 on Sunday against the Penguins.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Josh Yohe
Saturday, May 18, 2013, 7:30 p.m.
 

The Ottawa Senators could use a jolt of positive energy.

Maybe they've received it.

Center Jason Spezza, out since Jan. 27 and almost four months removed from back surgery, will return to the lineup in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Penguins on Sunday at Scotiabank Place.

Spezza said at Ottawa's practice Saturday that team physicians have cleared him to play and that the decision to participate in Game 3 was his.

“I've gone through a full recovery,” Spezza said. “Obviously, I've been off a long time. You're never going to be quite the same right away. I've put in the work, so it's not like I'm expected to play out of the blue.”

The Senators have lacked the offensive potency to threaten the Penguins through two games and have endured particular trouble down the middle, where Sidney Crosby (three goals) and Evgeni Malkin (one goal, two assists) have had their way with Ottawa's centers.

Spezza's addition could give the Senators' lineup some sizzle. He has produced 42 points in 33 career games against the Penguins and is one year removed from one of his finest seasons.

During the 2011-12 campaign, Spezza tied a career high with 34 goals and led the Senators with 80 points.

Even Spezza isn't sure what to expect when he takes the ice.

“The obvious challenge is the speed of the game, and hopping into the playoffs isn't easy. But I'm hoping my excitement — I've put in the work and it's been a long time coming — I hope the excitement can help me get through and get things back as quick as possible,” Spezza said.

Ottawa coach Paul MacLean emphasized that the decision to play was Spezza's.

Making it official

The Penguins announced Saturday the signing of defenseman Nick D'Agostino to a two-year contract.

D'Agostino, an offensive defenseman from Bolton, Ontario, was the Penguins' seventh-round pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

He played at Cornell during the past four seasons.

Taking it easy

In what has become customary during a hectic postseason, coach Dan Bylsma orchestrated an optional practice in Ottawa on Saturday. The only skaters who participated were Jussi Jokinen, Dustin Jeffrey, Tanner Glass and Robert Bortuzzo. These players figure to be healthy scratches in Game 3.

Both goaltenders, Tomas Vokoun and Marc-Andre Fleury, also participated in the skate.

Sticking with Anderson

Despite goaltender Craig Anderson's struggles against the Penguins, the Ottawa goaltender will start Game 3 against the Penguins. MacLean made the decision official Saturday.

Anderson, who sparkled during the regular season, has permitted seven Penguins goals in 81 minutes during this series.

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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