Fact is, any goal the Senators score these days is cause for celebration.

But when Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson teamed up for one in Thursday's practice — then leapt into each other's arms with big grins on their faces — there was also a sense of relief at Scotiabank Place.

The return of Spezza, the NHL's fifth-leading scorer, should be a big boost for a team whose offence has dried up with just five goals in the last four games. Getting him back to play in a must-win vs. the Habs, against whom he has 27 goals and 58 points in 49 career games, well sure, it's almost enough to jump for joy.

It'd bode well for the Senators if the Spezza can get one in his return from a one-game absence. They're 11-0 when he has scored in 2012.

"I'm getting better," Spezza, who has 75 points in 73 games, said following Thursday's on-ice session, his first this week. "It's good to get out and skate, get a little bit of a sweat on."

Exactly why he missed Tuesday's 1-0 loss to New Jersey appears to be a sensitive subject. The official reason given by both the team and player is an "illness," but when pressed for details by a reporter who wondered if a flu might have caused a weight loss or have a lingering affect on his strength, Spezza wouldn't elaborate.