Jason's got jam, after all

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

It didn't seem that long ago Senators coach Craig Hartsburg was asking for more from centre Jason Spezza.

Now he's getting it.

After the second hat trick of his career, Spezza is riding a three-game point streak going into tonight's game against the Panthers and the increased energy and pace in the big centre's game has been easy to see. After a dozen-game stretch that saw him with a paltry two goals and two assists, Spezza has exceeded that point amount in his last three games (four goals and one assist).

"I think he's been good. It's been a tough start for Jason," said Hartsburg. "The good thing about it for me with Jason is he hasn't tried to avoid it. When you talk to him, it's not like, 'Oh, no, that's not true.' He knows. And the good part about him is he's trying to do something about it. In the last little bit, his game, his work habits, his competing have been higher, which allows him to have the puck more. I've said to him since Day 1, 'I want the puck on your stick every time you're on the ice.' The more he has the puck, the more he's going to create.

"Early in the year, I think he was waiting for the puck to come to him, but I see a guy now who is hungry to go get it and hold onto it in traffic. Even the big hit he took (Saturday) he kind of got up laughing from it, which is good. To me, that shows he's willing to pay a bigger price for us and that's good."

Since he was reunited seven games ago with Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson on The Pizza Line, the Senators have earned at least a point in six of those seven games.

"My legs have felt good. A lot of it is the familiarity with Heater and Alfie," said Spezza. "I get to keep moving a little more, we read off each real well and, in turn, I get to drive through the middle and create traffic. I've got to get through traffic and dish it off. I think it's just been reading the play better. The strength of my game has been reading the play and just letting it flow. I've worried less about what I'm doing the last few games and just let my instincts kick in."

HEAR AND THERE

If there was any thought of clear sailing ahead for the Senators -- not that there should be for a team that's 26th in a 30-team league -- Hartsburg dispelled it with one sentence heading into tonight's meeting with Florida. "They've got more wins than we do," said Hartsburg. That pretty much sums it up ... G Alex Auld will be back in the Senators net again tonight for his 11th straight start. In his last seven starts, Auld has allowed two goals or less in six of those games ... Spezza scored all three goals in Saturday's win over the Penguins, just the second time in Senators history one player scored all three in a 3-2 win. The other time was Bob Kudelski (remember him?) against San Jose on Jan. 10, 1993.

THE BUZZ

F Dean McAmmond said yesterday he wound up with pneumonia to go with his throat infection. He dropped about nine pounds and for a guy with just 8% body fat, he can't afford to drop much. He's missed the last four games, but hopes to skate with his teammates today and tomorrow and get a sense where his conditioning is. He didn't rule out being ready for Friday when the Senators visit Washington ... Hartsburg was asked yesterday if the Senators had turned a corner. "In a season, there's lots of corners, though," he said ... The Senators had a couple of scares Saturday night when Alfredsson got hit in the foot with a shot by Pittsburgh's Hal Gill (Alfredsson said he'll be okay) and when D Brendan Bell ripped one off the back of W Chris Neil's leg just when he was going to throw down with Penguins tough guy Eric Godard. "(Neil) didn't even flinch. At a normal time of the game he would have gone down in a heap," said Hartsburg. "When you're focused on fighting a 6-foot-4, 235-lb. guy, I guess a slap shot in the back of the leg doesn't seem to bother you. I watched it on the video again (yesterday), it was like, 'Holy cow.' It just shows you when you're mentally focused on something, you can put up with a lot."


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