MONTREAL -- On Hockey Day in Canada, a frustrated Jason Spezza will be forced to play the role of spectator -- again.
The Senators centre, who will miss his eighth game because of a chest injury today against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre, told the Sun yesterday he was almost begging to come back.
"I talked to (trainer) Gerry (Townend) and I was trying to figure out if there might be any way that I would be able to come back in this game," said Spezza.
"You grow up in Canada watching Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday night and then you have something like this with Hockey Day in Canada and that makes it even more special. Plus, I love playing here. It's such a great atmosphere and there's so much tradition."
Still, Spezza, named as an alternate to Canada's Olympic team last month, knows there's no sense in rushing back from the injury, which occurred when he stretched for a puck against the Habs on Dec. 20.
Spezza said he felt "like I tore or stretched something," but thought he'd be back in the lineup in a couple of days. He admitted he may have been hasty in trying to play last Monday in an 8-3 loss to Atlanta.
Spezza said he decided to return against the Thrashers to see if he was capable of playing and to contribute some scoring production to a club already missing captain Daniel Alfredsson (cracked rib) and Martin Havlat (shoulder surgery).
His enforced absence is difficult for Spezza because he was rolling at the time of the injury. He has 13 goals and 35 assists in 31 games, and the club's offence has struggled without him.
"I was probably only about 70% at the time, but I wanted to come back and I wanted to give it a try," said Spezza. "I thought maybe if I could get in there with (Alfredsson) out that I might be able to help provide some offence. That was something that I felt I wanted to do.
SHOOTING FOR SHARKS
"The only thing I wanted to make sure was that if I went in there I wasn't going to make it any worse and there was no danger in that. Sure, it felt a little worse the day after the game, but now it's back to where it was before that game and now we're just going to try to give it time to completely heal. I'm hoping that will be soon."
Spezza said he is aiming to return to the lineup Thursday against the San Jose Sharks at the Corel Centre or next Saturday in Edmonton. But he can't put a timetable on it.
"I'm past the point now where I want to be in a hurry to come back,'' he said. ''You start watching and you start thinking about some things when you see the team and you want to be in there helping out. It's frustrating because I feel like I can do everything, but I have a difficult time when it comes to battling for pucks.
"What I have to remember is that this is a long season. This is January and there's a lot of the season left to play. You don't want to put yourself in a situation where this bothers you for the rest of the year."