Spezza shows some much-needed fight

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:05 AM ET

Struggling with his full-time job, Jason Spezza added to his portfolio last night.

Apparently, he is now the Senators' much-maligned No. 1 centre and team bodyguard.

Go figure.

With Chris Neil out of the lineup, likely for good, Spezza took it upon himself to go after big Dion Phaneuf for a hit on Dany Heatley in the third period.

"I thought it was a dirty hit," said captain Daniel Alfredsson, who thought Phaneuf went after Heatley's head. "(Spezza) did absolutely the right thing."

Cory Clouston was also happy with Spezza's reaction.

"It's definitely a start for him in the right direction, as far as that area or that part of his game," the coach said. "He showed he wants to be a team guy. And that goes a long way in the dressing room. It shows he is willing to try and work on his game, work on his overall kind of personna.

"That type of thing goes a long way in the future."

Heatley, who didn't miss a shift, was also appreciative of his buddy having his back.

"It's nice when a teammate does that," said Heatley. "No one seemed to know if there was an elbow or not, but it was definitely a hard hit."

It was the third career fight for Spezza, who has also tangled with Patrick Sharp and Andrei Markov. He was given 17 penalty minutes for his actions last night (instigator, fighting major, game misconduct), which were the only numbers he put up in the game other than a minus-3.

"I'm sure the guys would react the same way if I got hit that way," said Spezza, who is having a subpar (for him) season with just 50 points in 62 games. "We're a close-knit group in the room.

"I thought (Heatley) was out ... I didn't see it too well. I thought it was a little dirty ... you're just trying to protect your teammates."

Spezza thought Phaneuf dropped the gloves first and deserved the instigator.

"I hit him with one, he told me I did," said Spezza, who added Phaneuf only grazed him with punches. "Then I just kind of tried to hang on. He's a strong boy."

For a team that had 11 shots on goal through two periods the night before the trade deadline, it was good to see someone show some fight.

STARTS AND STOPS

Way to go, Alex Auld. Now Flames rookie Warren Peters will have to make up some elaborate story when asked years from now to describe his first NHL goal. Nobody's going to believe he scored it that easily ... Alfredsson will spend a little more time than usual monitoring the activities of trade deadline day. He'll have no choice. Magnus, a childhood pal of his, is visiting from Sweden. "He's very into it," said Alfredsson. "He says this is a great time to be in Canada. He's going to be in front of the TV and the Internet all the time. I'm sure I'm going to get the updates." Sounds like Magnus is like Alfredsson. Part Canadian.

BETWEEN PERIODS

Second-year Senator Nick Foligno was a mess at last year's deadline, and his road roommate didn't help matters. "I remember we were in Boston and I had been mentioned in some trade talks, and Randy (Robitaille) was teasing me the whole day, about how I'm gone. It's pretty nerve-racking. You're supposed to be napping before the game ... I slept maybe a half-hour, then I'd wake up and stare at the screen." ... When it comes to such matters, however, Foligno remembers the advice of dad Mike, who was dealt three times in his NHL career. "He always told me if you get traded, it's a good thing. That means somebody wants you." ... Time for Jeff Glass to get a call-up. He's the only goalie in the Senators organization not to stink up the blue paint at Scotiabank Place this season ... Former Senators tough guy Andre Roy returned to the Flames lineup from concussion problems. "Just one, from what I remember," he said when asked the number of concussions he's had in his career. "I've seen stars, and had flashes where I was a little dizzy, but this was the first time." ... Alfredsson on Neil: "He's really good on his skates, so he can play. At the same time, he's a really good fighter. He'll take on anyone, and you never see him really lose a fight ... He's a really good player for us."

THINGS I THINK I THINK

Filip Kuba might be a good fit with the Flames. They are looking for a defenceman and, with hardrocks like Phaneuf, Robyn Regehr, Cory Sarich, and Jim Vandermeer, they can afford to take on a marshmallow .... Best hip check of the night happened at centre ice late in the second and was delivered by Ottawa native, Flames defenceman Adrian Aucoin. No doubt Chris Kelly will take a little longer getting out of bed this morning ... Auld, who left the game after 40 minutes because he wasn't feeling well, was apparently feeling fine earlier. "No one said anything until after the second intermission," said Clouston. Is it safe to assume, then, that Auld made himself sick with his play, too?

LAST MINUTE OF SAY

As a member of a great and proud hockey community, you will want to be at Barbara Ann Scott Arena tonight for the home opener of the Golden Knights Jr. B second-round playoff series. The game is an opportunity to support the Lori MacDonald Fund for the education costs of Jonathan, Matthew and David MacDonald. The boys, products of the Ottawa minor hockey system, lost their father Allen, a popular coach, to a heart attack in May 2004, and their mother Lori to cancer last November. The support of their other family, their hockey family, is greatly appreciated.


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