Spezza: Give Habs a break

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

Jason Spezza feels for Montreal Canadiens who are currently guilty of nothing more than being the subject of rumours, innuendo and lousy decisions.

He knows how damaging similar whispers regarding Ottawa Senators were in the past.

"That's why you don't want to speculate," Spezza said in the Senators dressing room yesterday, "because for the longest time everybody was talking about how this team had a drug problem, and was drinking too much. And it couldn't have been further from the truth.

"So you have to give those guys a little bit of the benefit of the doubt, because when stuff starts getting talked about, it always spreads, and you always hear more names that are involved that aren't really involved, and it becomes a big problem.

"We went through it last year in this city a little bit, where everybody was hearing these rumours that were very, very false," added Spezza. "So you're a little more sympathetic to the situation.

"I came to the rink (yesterday) morning and a few of the guys were chatting about it, and watched it on TV, so it's tough to really comment too much on it. I don't know the situation at all."

The situation, as it stands, is that Montreal's Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn, and Roman Hamrlik, are being linked as acquaintances of Pasquale Mangiola, who last week was arrested on charges of drug trafficking.

What is fact is that a lot of people want to be linked to NHL players. Many try to sink their "tentacles" into young stars, as Habs GM Bob Gainey so aptly put it. There's a certain celebrity status that comes with befriending an NHLer. You become a celebrity by association.

"It could be that guys go to a restaurant, and it's a restaurant owner, and all of a sudden you're involved in it, some times a lot of things," said Spezza. "You're around people and you don't know what they're up to ... you're just going there to eat dinner or whatever. You always have to be careful, but you can't live in a bubble. You're still going to go out, too, and you're going to meet people, and sometimes people are involved in that stuff and if you're seen talking to them, all of a sudden it's a big deal.

"It can be a casual conversation with somebody you've never met and people see it and all of a sudden assume you're best friends with them."

Spezza says such adversity can bring a team closer together, although it didn't quite work that way for last season's Senators.

Either way, whether the stories that are sure to be forthcoming are fact or fiction, the reputations of players and the Habs name is being dragged through the mud.

And the soiling of it is unlikely to stop any time soon.

"I think just because nobody knows how much is true, or how much isn't," said Spezza. "Usually a lot of it is not exactly as accurate as is initially reported. But people sometimes don't hear the rebuttals, so it will be tough for those guys."

Highway horror

As a veteran of late-night bus rides from one AHL city to another, Josh Hennessy was not shocked to learn of the crash that injured a number of Albany River Rats on the Massachusetts Turnpike early Thursday morning.

Four players and a broadcaster were in hospital with injuries that were described as serious but not life-threatening.

Bad weather was blamed for the single-vehicle accident which left the bus on its side and the passengers scrambling out of broken windows.

"Obviously, it's something that's in the back of your mind in the middle of the night on road trips when you're trying to sleep, especially when the weather is bad and you feel the wind blowing the bus around," said Hennessy, who was sent back to the Baby Sens after yesterday's trade.

"I guess you get a stomach for it if you come through junior and spend enough time in the American league. You know there's a small chance, but there's always a chance.

"I've been down that road quite a few times, between home and Binghamton, so you definitely see how it could happen."

Elliott 'left hanging'

Cory Clouston isn't blaming Brian Elliott for Thursday's 5-2 loss to Vancouver. Elliott, who will get the start today against the Habs, stopped 20-of-24 shots in the loss, but only 6-of-9 pucks he faced in the first.

"Looking at the video, we left him hanging a lot of times," said Clouston. "To be honest, there might have been one goal that, when you analyze his technique, his decision-making, his position, that you could blame him. But other than that, you can't leave a goaltender with those type of opportunities, with those type of world-class players, in those positions. We have to be better in front of him. We can't give up those scoring chances that early."

DON.BRENNAN@SUNMEDIA.CA


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