Cheapseats: Spezza the specialist
Bruce Garrioch, QMI Agency
|Ottawa Senators' Jason Spezza skates to the bench after scoring a shootout goal against the Buffalo Sabres during their NHL hockey game in Ottawa November 5, 2011. (REUTERS/Blair Gable)
Win, lose or draw, Jason Spezza wants to be counted on in the faceoff circle.
The Senators top centre, who leads the club in scoring, can add “faceoff specialist” to an already impressive resume.
And that resume should result in a short distance trip to this year’s all-star game being held at Scotiabank Place in January.
Not only is Spezza trying to be better at both ends, he went into Saturday’s visit by the Buffalo Sabres as the NHL’s busiest man in the faceoff circle by taking 322 draws, well ahead of Carolina’s Eric Staal (294).
“It’s just something I try to (take) pride in,” said Spezza.
“I want to be out there taking big faceoffs. It’s something I’ve worked on quite a bit in the last three years and I feel it’s something that I’ve been able to get a lot better at.
“When I came here, I don’t think I was as good. It’s one of those things where if you work at them, you can get better at them. I’ve put a lot of time in trying to work on them.”
Spezza is a student of the game. He watches a lot of hockey on off nights, knows players at every level and in every league.
He has done a lot of homework.
“Everybody has a unique way of taking them,” said Spezza about faceoff draws.
“Jarret Stoll is a guy I’ve talked to a little bit,” he said. “I’ve never spoken to (Buffalo’s) Paul Gaustad, but I’ve watched what he does.
“I try to do similar to what he does.”
THINGS MAKE YOU GO HMMM:
Looks like it will be tough for the Senators to make Rangers F Wojtek Wolski pay for his hit that concussed captain Daniel Alfredsson last Saturday. Wojtek, out with a groin injury, has been placed on IR, which means he won’t be eligible to play in Ottawa Wednesday. Might save the NHL a headache and surgery hasn’t been ruled out because Wolski is going to see a specialist in Philly Monday. The two teams don’t play again until January ... G Ryan Miller’s recent struggles have been a touchy subject in Buffalo lately. “He works incredibly hard,” said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff before the game. “During this break he’s had a chance to work on areas to help him improve.” Yup, and Miller was so much improved that Ruff took away the start he was supposed to get and gave backup Jhonas Enroth the net.
THIS N’ THAT
D Brian Lee suited up for his second straight game after being scratched seven in a row. That meant rookie D David Rundblad was out. Coach Paul MacLean liked the way Lee performed against the Habs and that’s why no change. “I thought he settled down after the first period. I thought he tried to do a little too much early,” said MacLean. “I thought as the game wore on he was just Brian Lee. He’s an NHL defenceman, he did a lot of good things and I thought that he helped our penalty killing.” ... It was Canadian Forces Appreciation Night with more than 3,300 troops on hand with donated tickets. “We’re pretty lucky to be doing what we’re doing and we’ve got people in Canada and the U.S. who are keeping us safe,” said Ruff. “We’ve got to be really appreciative of that fact.”
The struggling Bobby Butler did make himself noticeable once. He caught Buffalo’s Derek Roy with a high stick on a follow through in the first. Fortunately for Butler, the officials didn’t notice it ... Nikita Filatov delivered a hit. Buffalo’s Jordan Leopold was the recipient. No kidding ... Zack Smith is emerging as a force: He had a great chance in the first and made perfect feed to set Erik Condra up on a break in the second for his first of the season ... Anybody else miss Rob Ray, Brad May and Dennis Vial or is it just me?
THE MORNING SKATE
Former Ottawa/Buffalo G Patrick Lalime was in the room talking to goalie coach Rick Wamsley in the morning when a reporter walked by, turned to Wamsley and joked: “Another one of our victims.” The quick witted Wamsley never missed a beat: “You mean another goalie you guys turned into a broadcaster.” ... There was no question this game would be close: Going into the visit by the Sabres, 11 of the past 12 games between Ottawa/Buffalo have been decided by one goal and 31-of-39 had the same result.
G Craig Anderson had an assist on the opening goal by LW Milan Michalek. While D Chris Phillips made a strong pass sending Michalek, Anderson had his first point in an Ottawa uniform and the eighth point of his career. His season-high was three points in 2009-10 with Colorado ... Anybody got a better backhand in the NHL than Michalek? He looks pretty good this year ... Erik Karlsson will be the next Senator headed to the dentist. A puck deflect into his face.
THE FINAL WORD
Great to see our favourite feature (The Goodies a.k.a. The Plays of the Month) back on the out-of-date scoreboard. They might want to show them during the game. Nobody should have to miss this Gord Wilson feature.