Spezza excited to start season, but downplays expectations

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:33 PM ET

Jason Spezza is keeping expectations low but the work ethic high for the Senators.

Speaking to Sportsnet Radio The Fan 590 in Toronto on Friday, the Senators centre said he believes the club will work hard, but admitted there's going to be some growing pains as part of the next step in a major rebuild.

Spezza, 28, who is spending the off-season in Toronto, is taking part in a the Allstate All-Canadians Mentorship Camp at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga. It's an NHLPA initiative Gary Roberts is running for the top 42 bantam players in the country.

Spezza said he's been pleased with the changes made in the off-season by Senators GM Bryan Murray. With new coach Paul MacLean behind the bench and plenty of young players in the lineup, the club isn't making any post-season promises.

But they are looking forward to a fresh start.

"We're excited. We have a whole new staff coming in and a whole bunch of young guys who have had success in the AHL," said Spezza, referring to Binghamton's Calder Cup championship. "We're going be a good, hard-working team with some raw talent.

"Wins aren't going to come easy for us every night. But, if we work hard, we can compete with anybody."

Spezza notes the Senators are in a tough Northeast Division.

Toronto, Montreal and Buffalo have all made improvements. Oh, and the defending Stanley Cup champions Boston Bruins.

"You look at our division there are no easy nights," said Spezza. "Toronto and Montreal are always big battles for us. Buffalo has spent a lot of money this summer and they're going to be a much-improved team. Boston is the champs.

"If anything, we're the underdogs right now and hopefully we can embrace that role. We can come out hard and have a good start to the year. It's tough to play catch up in our division or any division."

Spezza is also looking forward to having a healthy Daniel Alfredsson back on his right side and Milan Michalek on the left.

The Senators centre said that the club would be better off if Alfredsson needs to take a few nights off.

The 38-year-old captai, who told reporters Thursday he'll skate next week without equipment for the first time since back surgery June 10 to repair a disc problem, suited up for only 54 games last season because of pain in his right leg.

"We have a lot of good chemistry on the ice," said Spezza on his linemates. "Alfie just wants to be healthy like anybody else. For him, he's getting older, so if he has to take a couple of games off here and there to get rest, that might be the best approach for him.

"But we're hoping to get him back healthy. I know he's feeling good after surgery, he's excited about the season and he's definitely going to be a big driving force for our team."


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