It was a "minor groin injury" to Jason Spezza that opened the door for Stephane Da Costa to show he belongs in the NHL.

And with the pre-season finally winding down the almost-forgotten kid from Paris is barging his way in.

Spezza missed yet another day of practice Saturday after which coach Paul MacLean chose to alleviate concerns about his top middleman's surgically repaired back and knee by pinpointing the problem for the first time.

"Jason Spezza has a minor groin injury that we are managing to get him to Oct. 4 and be ready to play" MacLean said referring to the team's first game on the regular season schedule in Buffalo against the Sabres. "We want to make sure that he's 100& and he's very close. Could he play (in Sunday's pre-season finale)? Absolutely. He could have played the last two or three games. But we just feel there's no reason to have any of our players have something that could turn into a problem and have them play just because it's an exhibition game. So we're just making sure he's ready for the opener."

Da Costa a 24-year-old who has been filling in on the top line has more than indicated he can sub for Spezza when the games count.

"We believe now he can play in the NHL at any position whether it's a top-six role or bottom six" said MacLean. "He can come in and help our team."

Da Costa's emergence made the Senators antsy about putting him on waivers and losing him to another team. Instead they waived Mike Hoffman and David Dziurzynski Saturday.

They should find out Sunday at noon that both cleared.

Da Costa the surprise of camp whether MacLean wants to put him on that mantle alone or not has been one of the team's top forwards during the pre-season and will almost certainly stay in Ottawa after Monday's final roster cutdown even if it's just as an extra forward and insurance for Spezza.

The Senators won a derby of teams trying to sign Da Costa out of Merrimack College in the spring of 2011 but over the course of the 33 NHL games he has played since then it's been difficult to understand what all the fuss was about.

However it was a newer thicker and more determined Da Costa that showed up here in September.

"We've asked him to have a better fitness level a better competition level and play better defensively. And he's done all those things" said MacLean. "And if people are doing things that you ask them to do I think you have to acknowledge that and then give them the opportunity. He's made those things and he's making it difficult for us to make decisions which is what we like.