Jason Spezza is about to become a playoff centre of attention for the Senators.
While Senators coach Jacques Martin won't make his final roster decisions until after today's morning skate, it's expected the dynamic young Spezza will be in the lineup tonight at the Corel Centre for Game 3 of the Battle of Ontario.
In the wake of a 2-0 shutout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs that tied up the Eastern Conference first-round series 1-1, it would only make sense for Martin to juice up his attack by inserting Spezza into the lineup. It's believed rookie Antoine Vermette would sit out if Spezza goes in.
Ottawa fans no doubt remember the jolt Spezza provided the Senators when they fell behind the New Jersey Devils 3-1 in the Eastern Conference final. In his playoff debut, Spezza scored a goal and set up the winner as Ottawa prevailed 3-1.
"If I play (tonight), I'll be ready," said Spezza, who has been a healthy scratch for the first two games of the series. "If they decide to make a change, then I'll try to go in there and show why I belong in the lineup. That's all I can do."
This hasn't been easy on Spezza, and Saturday night didn't help. He made it clear he wasn't happy the team lost, couldn't beat Toronto goalie Ed Belfour on 31 shots, and went 0-for-6 on the power play.
Spezza was asked if he thought the Senators' power-play woes Saturday "helped" his situation. But he wasn't going to have anything to do with that theory being floated by the media and gave a mature response.
"It won't help my situation and I don't want it to help my situation," he said. "I'm not happy because we didn't win the game. I might not be playing, but I'm a team player and cheering the team on. I want us to win.
"I'm on the team and I want the Ottawa Senators to be successful in this series. That we went 0-for-6 (on the power play) doesn't help me. All that matters to me is that we win the game. I'm not going to mope around because that wouldn't do anybody any good. I just want this team to have success."
It sounded like somebody had a chat with Spezza. He didn't look very happy when first told by Martin he was a scratch before Thursday's opener. There were reports in the Toronto media the two couldn't coexist next season.
All Martin said yesterday was that lineup decisions would be made today. He gave no indication Spezza would play tonight, but don't be surprised if he does.
"I said we're going to need Jason Spezza during the series and he's going to play," said Martin. "That decision will be made (today). We went 0-for-6 on the power play and if you look at the two games in this series, special teams have been the difference in both."
Still, whether Spezza plays or not, the Senators have to play better than they did Saturday to try to take a 2-1 lead in this series with the arch-rival Leafs. They had plenty of scoring opportunities, but didn't do enough to get to the net.
The Senators also talked a lot during a brief team meeting with Martin yesterday about playing with discipline. Ottawa gave the Leafs seven power plays and that's not something the Senators had a problem with in the regular season.
"I don't think (we're confused) with what's being called ... Not at all," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. "We know what the officials are calling. We've seen it in these first two games and we know what they're going to call.
"Obviously, they're calling the slashing on the stick and that's something we didn't see during the regular season."
Added Martin:"Discipline is going to be a big factor in games like these. We weathered the storm in the first 10 minutes, we made a mistake that cost us a goal, but I thought we played pretty well and did a lot of good things. We just took too many penalties and you can't win that way."
The Senators also have to do a better job getting rebounds in front of Belfour.
"He made the good save on Alfie with the glove in the third period, but we've got to get more chances," said Senators winger Peter Schaefer. "We've talked about shooting the puck more and making sure we go to the front of the net to try to not let him see as much."
It's Spezza's time
BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun
, Last Updated: 3:50 PM ET