Spezza bounces back

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:40 AM ET

Early in the season, Jason Spezza could not buy a goal.

The Ottawa Senators forward went 11 games before registering his first goal of the year and was then shutout for nine games after that. It was unfamiliar territory for someone who has twice hit the 90-point plateau.

“It was tough. I’m a guy that’s always been pretty good offensively, pretty consistent, so when you go through a dry spell it’s tough on you mentally,” Spezza said.

‘Magnified’

“Especially when it happens at the start of the season, it becomes more magnified. If it happened in midseason, it might be easier to kind of hide in the weeds … but I knew I was going to get myself out of it eventually. I just had to watch tape and try to get some dirty goals and when those start going in, all of a sudden you start getting confidence back.”

What Spezza required was a little time off. A knee injury kept him out of the lineup for 20 games. He returned in January and has been on a tear since.

Before Tuesday, Spezza had 10 goals and six assists in the 14 games since his return.

“He’s shooting the puck a lot more,” said Senators head coach Cory Clouston.

“The last couple of games he’s gotten away from that, and we need him to get back to that.But he’s a little bit more energized and that break did him well. There were some nagging injuries that he had been playing through.”

The desire to make the Canadian Olympic team kept Spezza in the lineup longer than he probably should have. Prior to injuring his knee, the Toronto native had been hampered by a number of other ailments.

“My back was bothering me and I was trying to play through it,” Spezza said.

“It was probably not the wisest thing to do, but it is what it is ... you want to make that Olympic team.

“It probably hurt me more than it helped me in the long run, so it was a learning experience.”

In not making the team, Spezza had even more time to rest his knee. His torn MCL did not require surgery, although he does need to wear a brace.

Now back at the top of his game, he’s helped the Senators climb to fifth spot in the Eastern Conference.

“We’re a good, hard-working hockey team that’s playing four lines and everyone is involved,” Spezza said. “We’re able to win close games, we’re not blowing anyone out, but that’s been our trademark all year is playing in close games and finding a way to win.”

Sympathize

The Senators could sympathize with the plight of Oilers, having been in a similar situation last season.

The Oilers are last in the NHL standings and are simply playing out the string this year.

“Just because a team is having a bad year doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad team,” Spezza said. “You can’t take teams like this lightly. Suddenly (they) have a lot of young kids coming up, playing hard. And because there is a lot less pressure on them, they start playing a lot better.”


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