NHL Notes: Sens' Jason Spezza returns to practice

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NHL Notes: Sens' Jason Spezza returns to practice

OTTAWA -- Fresh off their first-round elimination of the Montreal Canadiens, the Ottawa Senators had a familiar face back on the ice on Sunday.

No. 1 center Jason Spezza practiced with his teammates for the first time since undergoing back surgery for a herniated disk on Feb. 1 and says it was nice to take another step in his recovery.

"It's been a long process and a long season for me," Spezza said. "It felt good to join the team again and get some reps in. It may not seem like it and I may not play this year, but for me it's a small victory."

Despite speculation that Spezza could be done for the season, the fact the 29-year-old took part in a full practice was encouraging for the Senators, who will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of the playoffs.

Spezza, who had been skating on his own before joining Ottawa's AHL callups for more training, says he had some "ups and downs" over the course of his recovery but made improvements over the past few weeks that allowed him to take part in a regular practice.

Whether or not he plays this season depends on how his body reacts (see full story).

Hitchcock downplays Halak flap
ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said it was no big deal that he and goalie Jaroslav Halak argued about playing time during the playoffs, calling it an "everyday occurrence."

Hitchcock and general manager Doug Armstrong both said Sunday that he didn't anticipate major roster changes after the Blues squandered a 2-0 series lead against the Los Angeles Kings and lost four in a row against the Los Angeles Kings after taking a 2-0 series lead.

Addressing Halak, Hitchcock said he'd have been surprised if the goalie was unhappy about not getting used in the playoffs. Halak wasn't at the Scottrade Center when the locker room opened to media.

"With Jaro that's an everyday occurrence like arguments and discussions that go on with players and playing time that was discussed in the meeting today," Hitchcock said. "If he wasn't disappointed I'd be surprised. I don't care. If you're under contract, you're ready to play."

Halak is among three goalies in the mix with Brian Elliott, who started all six games against the Kings, and rookie Jake Allen (see full story).

Derek Boogaard's family files suit against NHL
The New York Times is reporting that Derek Boogaard's family has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the National Hockey League.

In the lawsuit, the family says the NHL is responsible for the brain damage that Boogaard sustained during six seasons as an enforcer in the league, and for his addiction to prescription painkillers.

Boogaard was found dead of an accidental overdose of pain medication and alcohol on May 13, 2011. He was 28. He was posthumously diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain ailment that is caused by repeated blows to the head.

The Times reports the suit was filed late Friday by the Chicago law firm of Corboy & Demetrio, in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

"To distill this to one sentence," William Gibbs, attorney for the Boogaards, told The Times, "you take a young man, you subject him to trauma, you give him pills for that trauma, he becomes addicted to those pills, you promise to treat him for that addiction, and you fail," (see full story).

Flyers-Senators 10 observations: Jordan Weal comes through with finishing touch

Flyers-Senators 10 observations: Jordan Weal comes through with finishing touch

Thanks to Jordan Weal and more shootout magic -- yes, you read that correctly -- the Flyers captured a 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).

Weal netted a game-tying marker and the only tally of the skills competition in which the Flyers are now 7-4 this season.

Here are 10 observations from the victory:

1. Weal made a heady play by skating hard to the net as Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson left the crease to play a puck. He intercepted Anderson's pass and quickly buried the shot to knot the score, 2-2, with 7:25 left in the third period. The rookie has five goals in his last 11 games and has turned into a serious catalyst for a team that has struggled to score goals since mid-December.

2. The Flyers have back-to-back wins for the first time since Feb. 28-March 3. Still, they have only six games left, all against Metropolitan Division opponents. Their record against the remaining clubs on the schedule is 6-9-1. The Flyers stayed put Tuesday -- six points out of the second wild-card spot as both the Bruins and Maple Leafs won.

3. Brayden Schenn snapped the Flyers' 0-for-17 power-play skid on a deflection of Shayne Gostisbehere's shot with 1:26 left in the first period. The Flyers were 3 for 46 on the man advantage in March until Schenn's tally. With the current state of the Flyers' season, Schenn's production has gone somewhat unnoticed. Coming off a four-year contract extension this offseason, the 25-year-old forward has 23 goals, three from tying his career high set last season. Sure, he's been reliant on the power play (like many of his teammates), but Schenn has shown up after being rewarded.

4. Good effort by the Flyers after beating the Penguins, 6-2. They had struggled in sustaining any semblance of consistency and finally did for consecutive games -- and it came on fan appreciation night.

5. Steve Mason made his 13th start in the last 15 games and did his part. It looked like he didn't see Kyle Turris' shot in the third period that handed Ottawa a 2-1 lead. Overall, though, Mason once again gave the Flyers a chance. He entered with a 2.12 goals-against average over his last 12 games, while making 26 saves and three stops in the shootout Tuesday. The other goal allowed was gift-wrapped by Flyers penalties, resulting in a 5-on-3 and Erik Karlsson blast.

6. The Senators did what they do: aggressive and disruptive play on the puck-handler and making the opposition work for everything. Ottawa thrives on close, grind-it-out games, which has been a recipe for success as the Senators vie for the Atlantic Division crown.

7. Anderson has just been a wonderful story this season. He's taken some time away from the team to be alongside his wife, Nicholle, who is battling cancer. And even through that, he's having one heck of a season at 35 years old for a team destined for the playoffs.

8. Stick tap to Radko Gudas for jumping on the opportunity to stand up for a teammate late in the first period. Weal, not of much size at 5-foot-10, 179 pounds, was on the receiving end of two hits from 6-foot-1, 216-pound defenseman Mark Borowiecki. The second check was to the back and put Weal headfirst into the boards. Gudas saw it perfectly and swooped in to send a message.

9. More on Weal -- the rookie forward has shown he can help the Flyers in the future. With him playing well in a top-six role, Ottawa looked like it put a concerted effort on being physical with Weal. Similar to Travis Konecny, that's something Weal will have to overcome as more defensive focus is shifted to him.

10. A little inside the box score …
• With his assist, Gostisbehere has three points in his last two games. He's been active offensively with nine shots in those two outings.

• The Flyers were 1 for 4 on the power play, making them 4 for 48 this month.

• The Flyers outshot the Senators, 35-28, and blocked more shots, 20-17.

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Senators 2 (SO)

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Senators 2 (SO)

BOX SCORE

A live-and-let-die week of hockey began for the Flyers on Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center against the Ottawa Senators.
 
This was a playoff-type, defensive hockey game from the second period to the finish with the Flyers prevailing 3-2 in the shootout. Jordan Weal won it after saving the Flyers in regulation.

Ottawa's Kyle Turris broke a 1-1 tie with 7:25 left, but Weal re-tied it with 5:59 left in regulation.

Despite the win, Boston's victory over Nashville dropped the tragic number to six points to eliminate the Flyers from the wild card.
 
Notable goals
Weal's third goal in five games that made it 2-2. Goalie Craig Anderson tried to clear the puck and Weal intercepted for an open net.

Challenge
Ottawa lost its challenge that Wayne Simmonds interfered with Anderson at the net on Weal's goal.
 
Goalie report
Steve Mason made his ninth start in 10 games.
 
Power play
Four shots and no goals on the Flyers' first attempt. They had two shots on their second chance. Yet, they did score with a brief 39-second brief power play at period's end to tie the game. Brayden Schenn tipped a Shayne Gostisbehere drive. 

The Flyers are a woeful 4 for 47 on the power play for March. They were 1 for 4 against the Sens, who are 17th in the NHL in penalty killing.
 
Penalty kill
Naturally, the Senators took advantage of their PPs. They had a 23-second five-on-three and scored on nifty 35-foot snap-wrister from Erik Karlsson to make it 1-0. Ottawa was 1 for 3.
 
Fights
Radko Gudas decisioned Mark Borowiecki in the first period.
 
Scratches
Forwards Roman Lyubimov (healthy), Michael Raffl (left knee) and Nick Cousins (concussion) and defenseman Nick Schultz (healthy).
 
Up next
The Flyers practice Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Skate Zone. They will face the Islanders on Thursday at Wells Fargo Center.