Spezza brings 'A' game

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

Maybe the Senators should have sewn a letter on Jason Spezza's sweater a few weeks ago.

Wearing the associate captain's 'A' for the first time in his NHL career, the big boy finally scored his second goal of the season in Thursday's 2-1 win over the Blue Jackets.

Spezza had gone nine games without a goal.

The 'A' on his chest actually belongs to Mike Fisher, who missed his second game with a fluke injury suffered in practice Tuesday. Chris Kelly wore it in Wednesday's 3-1 loss to New Jersey.

“It's always nice to get recognized as a leader,” Spezza said when asked about the letter before the game.

Spezza's goal came on a delayed penalty (that's right, a penalty call on the opposing team) less than a minute after Kristian Huselius had given Columbus a 1-0 lead. Doing the trick was a hard slap shot from 41 feet out that beat Steve Mason stick-side.

Spezza's response to seeing the puck find mesh was a punch in the air that had considerably more oomph than his usual goal celebrations. After skating in front of the bench for the ritualistic high-fives, Spezza let out a sigh that could be seen from press row.

Coach Cory Clouston was just as happy about Spezza's last shift, in a defensive role, as he was about the goal.

But Spezza is an offensive player who has a burning desire to score.

“I haven't lost my skills or anything,” Spezza said before the game. “I just have to find my nose for the net again.”

He rediscovered it last night, eh?

“It's a start for me,” said Spezza.

STARTS AND STOPS

Referee Dave Jackson will require surgery and could be done for the season after suffering MCL and ACL damage in his knee when Rick Nash slid into him during the first period. Jackson's departure left ref Frederick L’Ecuyer to take the abuse of Senators fans by himself ... Early speculation from the Senators is that Chris Neil will miss 10-14 days with the knee injury he suffered when smoked by Andrew Peters Wednesday. At the rink yesterday, Neil reiterated his belief that the hit was not dirty - while taking a good natured shot at his linemate Kelly in the process. “I put myself in that spot. I went back to get a puck that Kells should have had,” Neil said, breaking out in laughter. “If his knee was stuck out, I don’t think it was intentional.” ... Now that Filip Kuba has cooled, the hottest Senator is none other than fourth-liner Jesse Winchester, who had two assists last night and has four in his current three-game point-scoring streak.

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM...

Alex Kovalev had some exciting shifts in his first game back after missing three to attend his mother-in-law’s funeral. His puck skills were on full display during one in particular that led to Chris Phillips rattling a shot off the post ... The diminutive Ryan Shannon knocked three Blue Jackets off pucks before the game was 12 minutes old ... Rick Nash might have ended Kovalev's career had he connected with a neutral zone hit he attempted in the third .... At the ACC, Colorado winger Darcy Tucker is recognized by his former team with a scoreboard salute that prompts an emotional standing ovation while he is on the bench during a stop in play. At SBP, Columbus centre Antoine Vermette is recognized by his former team with a scoreboard salute at the exact moment he is taking a first period faceoff. Too bad for lousy timing. Vermette was a popular player in his five seasons here. Would have been nice to see him get an appropriate reception ...

BETWEEN PERIODS

It’s early in the third and the Senators have had two power plays to Columbus’ six, and you’re wondering if Cory Clouston is going to be as calm in his post-game presser as he was earlier in the day when discussing the officials. “Hockey is a very similar game to football,” Clouston expounded. “Just about every shift there could be (a penalty) if you called it directly, 100% by the book. It’s up to the official to have feel, to understand who’s got possession, who’s got the momentum, who’s on the attack more often than not. Every call’s a judgment call. Some are more obvious than others. We’ve just got to worry about our game and hopefully the calls will come.” ... Bad officiating is Jarkko Ruutu not being called for a penalty while drilling Jason Chimera into the boards from behind then seconds later drawing one while throwing himself to the ice after a hit by Michael Blunden. But then, what is it they say about stuff going around and coming around?

JUST SAYIN’

Daniel Alfredsson was asked what he was thinking when he threw his stick at Jamie Langenbrunner as the Devil had a breakaway with an open net in the last minute of Wednesday’s game. A goal was automatically awarded. “I’m not sure if I was thinking,” said Alfredsson.

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca


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