Hedja calls out Spezza

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:06 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- His coach has called him out.

The fans have questioned his heart.

Now, opponents are accusing him of being a dog.

Jason Spezza yesterday shook off comments by Columbus defenceman Jan Hedja, who slammed the Senators centre and his mates after the Blue Jackets beat Ottawa 1-0 Friday at Nationwide Arena.

"They didn't play like that on TV. Not the (film) we watched," Hejda, who partners with Mike Commmodore on the Blue Jackets "shutdown" pairing, told the Columbus Dispatch following the game. "Especially (Spezza). He dumped the puck in three or four times. He seemed like he didn't really want to play, like their season was maybe done.

"They're a one-line team. I didn't hear too much about any of the other guys on their team. We felt like if we could stop that one line, we could stop the whole team, and it worked."

Spezza had not read the quotes when Ottawa reporters approached him after yesterday's practice. When told what Hejda had to say, he smirked.

"I don't know the guy and I don't know why he's talking about my game," Spezza said. "I guess it's bad for me to dump the puck in. I have no idea. I don't really care what one defenceman I don't really know has to say about my game.

"Pretty harsh criticism for a guy that hasn't watched us play very much, and after a game that was pretty close. It's not like they took it to us all night. They didn't have very many chances, either. They're a team that's got a chance to make the playoffs again, and I don't think we've quit."

The Senators, who are in Washington for a matinee (12:30 p.m.) meeting with Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals today, were coming off an inspired 3-1 win over St. Louis only 24 hours before the Jackets made them look bad.

They were outshot 25-18 by a Ken Hitchock-coached team which is notorious for thinking defence first and second, and a team that, with the victory, jumped from 10th to fifth in the very tight Western Conference standings. They were also handcuffed by penalties.

The Senators were short-handed six times in the first two periods and it was just three seconds after one of the penalties expired that Columbus scored what was essentially a power-play goal.

'A LOT OF PRIDE'

Spezza, who is third in Ottawa scoring with 18 goals and 20 assists in 46 games, had three shots on goal in 22:23 of ice time. Dany Heatley, the Senators' top point getter with 43, had just one shot on goal in 22:12 while Daniel Alfredsson, who is second in team scoring with 42 points, also had only one shot on goal in 22 minutes of action.

"There's a lot of pride in the room and we obviously don't want to embarrass ourselves," Spezza said when asked if there was any fight left in the Senators. "We're not going to pack it in. We think we've got a chance. We think we can string some games together. We've got a lot of division games coming up. We just have to be optimistic about the situation. It's obviously a bit of a heartbreaking loss like (Friday) night, to lose 1-0 in a game we played pretty tight defensively, pretty well. The way we're playing now, we're relying on special teams and hoping to win the special teams battle, and this time we lost it.

"We get one power-play goal and we probably win the game 1-0, and everyone is singing our praises in the morning."

Coach Craig Hartsburg didn't think his team was as bad as Hejda inferred. He said the combination of the Blue Jackets' stifling style and goalie Steve Mason has shut down a lot of teams. Hartsburg was also satisfied with his own team's defensive game, pointing out the Senators limited Columbus to just five scoring chances.

Asked about the effort level of his top players, Hartsburg said they didn't do what they needed to have success.

"I think there's parts of our game and their game we can be better at," he said. "I think our transition and positioning to get into position to get the puck is not good right now. Those three guys, if they're not getting the puck or in position to get the puck, they don't have a chance to create up ice. I think that's the biggest problem, not just for them. Our forwards at times don't come back and get in that right position so we can get speed through the neutral zone and that's probably that line's biggest problem right now."


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