OTTAWA - Jason Spezza played Saturday’s game against Buffalo with a heavy heart.
Only hours earlier, the Senators centre learned of the “freak accident” which killed Canadian skier Nik Zoricic at a skicross World Cup event in Switzerland.
The 29-year-old Zoricic was one of his “best buddies,” Spezza said Monday when talking to reporters for the first time since the tragedy.
“It’s been a real tough couple of days for me,” admitted Spezza.
Against the Sabres, Spezza failed to register a goal or assist, but did see 19:17 of ice time and was instrumental in the team earning a point.
THE BISHOP TRAIN
Injured No. 1 goalie Craig Anderson was on the ice in full gear and taking shots from assistant coaches Luke Richardson and Rick Wamsley Monday, but he still has yet to practise with the team since surgery to repair a sliced tendon in his blocker hand Feb. 22.
“We’re going to keep going every day, I guess, to see if he gets better and better,” said coach Paul MacLean. “He’s just trying to get into it and get comfortable with his glove and his stick, making sure there’s a comfortable level before he starts to really get into it.”
In the meantime, expect the Senators to continue to ride rookie Ben Bishop in goal — at least for one more game. Bishop is 2-0-1 with a 2.27 goals-against average and .926 save percentage since coming up from Binghamton, switching places with Robin Lehner.
“We’ll evaluate it day by day, but obviously Ben has played real good,” said MacLean. “Robin played fine while he was here, too.”
Asked if the door was still open for Lehner to be recalled again from Bingo, MacLean said: “Oh yes. That’s still open, for sure.”
ZACK ON TRACK
No Senator can be more excited about going to Montreal via Via Rail than Zack Smith. For one thing, Smith scored his first NHL goal at Bell Centre and has four goals and an assist in nine career games vs. the Habs. Secondly, the mode of transportation will be new to him.
“I’m looking forward to it. I’ve actually never ridden on a train, believe it or not,” said Smith. “It’ll be fun. It’s not too long of a trip and it’s cool to try new stuff.”
Smith has been on the C-Train in Calgary, which is similar to that of Ottawa’s O-Train, but never on a “lengthy” train ride. Joked the native of Maple Creek, Sask.: “I’m from a small town. Didn’t get out too much.”
As for the game itself, Smith says it’s always easy to get up for meetings with the Habs.
“Whether it’s here (in Ottawa), where they have lots of fans and the building is louder, or playing in Montreal is pretty cool,” he said, adding that it’d be nice for his “luck” against the Canadiens to continue. “Them being a rival, it would be nice to kind of being known as a Habs killer.”
The Senators have held “several discussions” with Craig Oster, the agent for star defenceman Erik Karlsson, but no formal negotiations on a new contract as of yet. Karlsson’s entry-level agreement with the team expires at the end of the season.
“The Senators have been outstanding to work with in Erik’s development over the course of these two years of his entry-level contract,” Oster told The Team 1200’s Healthy Scratches Monday afternoon. “He’s real excited about the team, the organization, the direction everything’s headed. I’m not anticipating us to really be having any substantial negotiations until the season’s done, but we’ve certainly have had discussions with the club just about the fact Erik likes it there, he’s happy, and they’re certainly happy with him.”
THIS AND THAT
A couple of weeks after MacLean said the December acquisition of Kyle Turris made the Senators “a complete team,” Daniel Alfredsson was also full of praise for his centre. Turris has eight goals, 12 assists and a plus-10 rating in 37 games for Ottawa. He has also proven to be a strong defensive player, says Alfredsson. “He pays attention to details,” said Alfredsson. “He’s good on faceoffs. Ever since we played together, we’ve been pretty good 5-on-5. I think I was a minus-player before and now, I don’t know what I am, plus-6 or -7. The coach feels more and more that we can play against the other team’s top line, check them and at the same time create some offence. He’s got speed and puck skills that can make plays under pressure, too.” ... Alfredsson is against talk of reinstating the red line, which is being discussed at the GM meetings in Florida. “I think it would slow the game down quite a bit,” he said. “I’d rather see goalies being allowed to play the puck more or the refs calling the icing. Now, if there is a player within the vicinity of the pass, even if it's a slapshot, they wave off the icing. If it doesn’t touch the offensive player, it should be icing.” ... Spezza says if the league wants to create more offence, the refs should instead be calling more penalties. “It’s harder to be an offensive guy these days,” said Spezza, who sits fourth in league scoring with 73 points. “If you’re a point-a-game, you’re top five in the league right now. They have to figure out a way for guys to create more chances to score. I don’t know how they’re going to do it, but it just seems like there’s less penalties right now, and that’s the biggest thing. You get one, two power plays a night, whereas before you were getting four or five power plays. If they’re happy with the product on the ice, there’s no need to change it. But if you’re looking for 100-point scorers, you’re not going to get it by getting one power play a night. Guys are doing a good job generating offensive chances, but if you have 60 points even strength, you’re tops in the league. It’s still hard to score even strength when you have guys checking you all the time.”