Spezza happy to be back in picture

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 2:56 PM ET


 Tired of sitting, Jason Spezza was happy to be back in the Senators lineup last night.

 Following a 2-0 shutout loss on Saturday, Senators coach Jacques Martin put Spezza into the lineup after making him a healthy scratch for the first two games of the series.

 Not that it made a big difference. Spezza, mostly in a fourth-line role, played just 11:55, 15 shifts in all. But the Senators couldn't put the puck past Leafs goalie Ed Belfour and suffered yet another 2-0 setback.

 The decision to play Spezza, who had 22 goals and 47 assists this season, meant winger Antoine Vermette sat out.

 "It felt good to get back in there and play again," said Spezza. "It's been tough to watch because I'm a competitor and I want to be in there. I was upset because I wanted to be part of it. I felt more comfortable as the game went along.

 "It's been tough. I grew up watching the Leafs and you want to be part of a series like this."

 The last few days have been tough on Spezza. He missed the final two games of the regular season with an "upper body" injury, worked hard to get healthy and then found out the morning of Game 1 he wouldn't be playing.

 There have been whispers that Spezza, through his agents Bobby Orr and Rick Curran, will ask for a trade this summer to get away from Martin.

 But sources insist that's not true. Spezza denied any rift when asked about his relationship with Martin.

 GETS ALONG WITH COACH

 "Our relationship is the same as any player and any coach," said 20-year-old Spezza. "I get along with him. In fact, I'm probably the player who communicates with him the most on this team because I want to learn and I want to improve."

 Spezza said he sought advice from veterans Curtis Leschyshyn, Shaun Van Allen and Rob Ray about the situation.

 Winger Bryan Smolinski advised the youngster to keep his head up, not pout and stay ready because the opportunity to play was going to come sooner or later.

 "I'm not sure I told him anything different or out of the ordinary," said Smolinski. "He's like every other player, he wants to play. Everybody wants to get in there and help the team win.

 "He's a competitor. So is everybody else.

 'ALL THIS BS'

 "I know it's been tough for him to watch. He had (55) points and then he gets injured for the last two games and then he has a tough time getting back into the lineup.

 "Then there's all this BS about him wanting to be traded.

 "I told him it was okay to be (peeved) off behind closed doors. But, when you come on the ice for practice, you've got to act businesslike and be professional about it. He's taken his lumps, but I'm sure he'll be better for it."

 Spezza said he knows he has to be better defensively.

 "I realize in the playoffs that you have to play better at both ends of the ice," said Spezza.

 LEGGATT IN THE CROWD: Canadian PGA Tour member Ian Leggatt, a Cambridge native, was in town for last night's game. Leggatt, who had his first PGA victory at the 2002 Tucson Open on the day Canada won the gold medal in Salt Lake City, said he decided to take a hockey tour since he's sidelined because of wrist surgery. "I'm a big hockey fan," said Leggatt. "I was at the game Saturday in Toronto, I'm in Ottawa and then I'm going to be Montreal. It should be fun."


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