Stymied Spezza's deja blue

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

Maybe it’s a good omen.

The last time Jason Spezza had such a slow start, he wound up with the best season of his career.

It was 2007-08 and, after 14 games, the Senators centre had just one goal.

His final tally: 76 games played, 34 goals, 58 assists and 92 points.

“So this,” Spezza said after the 5-3 win over the Sabres Saturday, “is not completely new to me.”

“This,” however, is nonetheless confounding.

Spezza has just one goal through the Senators’ 20 games this season, of which he has played 18. He did snap a six-game pointless streak with a pair of assists Saturday, but his rotten luck around the net was never more evident.

He took nine shots at the Buffalo goal in the final two periods. Three were stopped by goalie Patrick Lalime, including a five-hole attempt on a breakaway early in the second. Four more went wide, while two others were blocked.

“I would never have thought I’d have a start like this offensively,” said Spezza. “I’ve been frustrated, at certain times. (But) I think I’ve taken a better perspective into the last couple of games. I felt good about (the Pittsburgh) game too. I had lots of chances. It’ll come.”

Along with elation over the team’s third straight win, Spezza was relieved to at least be back on the scoresheet.

“It might be the worst I’ve felt about a (six-) game pointless streak,” he said. “It was tough for me mentally. It was nice to snap out of it. I want to make sure I’m helping the team. Guys are playing great.

“I’ve worked hard on my defensive game, but I still want to contribute offensively.”

Spezza could have had two goals in the first period alone against Buffalo. On both occasions, while set for passes from Daniel Alfredsson, he could only watch as diving Sabres knocked away the puck.

Spezza called them close-but-not-yet moments.

“The hockey gods decided it’s not time to score yet,” he said. “You’ve just got to try not to worry about it. Guys make good plays like that, you move on.”

Leclaire/Kovalev update

The Senators will announce Monday morning whether G Pascal Leclaire and/or RW Alex Kovalev will be available tonight. Leclaire suffered a “lower body” injury vs. Buffalo. The team said the injury is not serious. Kovalev was in Russia Saturday for the funeral of his mother-in-law, and it wasn’t known whether he’d be back in time to play.

Faceoff payoff

The Senators have struggled in the faceoff circle, but Saturday’s performance vs. the Sabres helped. The Senators won a staggering 64% of the draws. Leading the way was Mike Fisher (15-7, 68%), Jason Spezza (14-9, 61%) and Chris Kelly (5-2, 71%). Even Daniel Alfredsson won a draw. Those numbers helped Ottawa move up to 21st in the NHL at 48.8%.

Traffic with jam

The Senators have also picked it up in getting traffic in front of the opposition net. Leading the way has been speedy winger Milan Michalek, who often takes a direct path to the net. “He’s been doing a great job,” said defenceman Filip Kuba. “He’s right on top of the crease and he’s moving with the puck when we make the ‘D’ to ‘D’ pass. A goalie doesn’t like that.”

Injuries

Senators: D Anton Volchenkov (elbow), could return Wednesday; RW Shean Donovan (knee), out indefinitely; RW Alex Kovalev (personal leave), could return tonight.

Capitals: LW Alexander Semin (wrist), day-to-day; RW Mike Knuble (broken finger), 3-4 weeks; D Milan Jurcina (lower body); RW Boyd Gordon (back), day-to-day; D Tom Poti (upper body), day-to-day; D Shaone Morrisonn (upper body), day-to-day.

-- With files from Chris Stevenson

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca


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