Goal-less Spezza held out again

BRUCE GARRIOCH, Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:44 PM ET

Jason Spezza will have to wait a little longer for a chance to break out of his goal-less drought.

After trying to play with what’s believed to be a back or groin injury that has hampered him since training camp, the Senators’ top centre — who is still looking to light the lamp for the first time this season — won’t be in the lineup for this afternoon’s Halloween matinee against the Atlanta Thrashers at Scotiabank Place.

Spezza was a late scratch for Thursday night’s 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the star centre, in conjunction with coach Cory Clouston and the team’s medical staff, has decided to rest the injury until it has healed.

Spezza didn’t speak to the media yesterday and won’t be back on the ice until he’s 100%.

“We’re trying to fix this so it’s not a continuous two steps forward and one step back,” Clouston said after the club’s one-hour workout at Scotiabank Place.

“You’ve got to look at the big picture. It’s easy to lose focus on what’s right in front of you. It’s mutual with the doctors, myself and Jason. We just felt this is what was best for the team in the long run. We need him as healthy as possible.”

The Senators are already without defenceman Anton Volchenkov, who is sidelined for at least three weeks with an elbow injury, and now must do without one of their main offensive threats. Although Spezza hasn’t been rewarded with a goal yet, he has been playing well at both ends of the ice.

Spezza’s spot on the line between Milan Michalek and Jonathan Cheechoo has been taken by Peter Regin. It will be a tall order to replace Spezza, who contributes valuable minutes and despite his scoring drought to start the season is a constant thorn in the opposition’s side.

“The thing is with Jason, even if he’s having an average game, he still is a presence,” said Clouston. “He still is a threat. We’ve seen it before where he’s maybe been not very good for whatever reason in the first period or the second period and all of a sudden in the third period he’s unbelievable.

“He needs that one opportunity where he can send the guy in on the breakaway or that one perfect pass to a wide-open guy and he’s a presence. He needs to be respected by the opposition. He draws attention from checkers. Even when he’s at his worst, he’s still very effective. You miss him in a lot of little areas.”

The Senators say other players will just have to pick up the slack in Spezza’s absence.

“It doesn’t change our style. We’ve been getting great contributions from everybody,” said captain Daniel Alfredsson.

“We feel we can play four lines even Spezza is not in the lineup and still get production. We feel pretty good about our foundation. Everybody feels that they can go out there and get the job done.”

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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