Outside looking in

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 4:12 PM ET

 As dozens of reporters hounded frustrated forward Jason Spezza for the second consecutive day, a sympathetic Antoine Vermette quietly watched the media circus taking place on the other side of the dressing room.

 "I don't feel happy for Jason but, unfortunately, that's part of the game," Vermette said. "No one likes to sit out but it's a coach's decision."

  FULLY RECOVERED

 Most observers close to the Senators figured Vermette would get the hook for Game 1 in favour of Spezza, the 20-year-old wonder boy who claimed he was fully recovered from the lower body injury that plagued him recently.

 But Vermette ended up receiving the nod from Sens coach Jacques Martin, who yesterday refused to explain his reasons for making Spezza a healthy scratch.

 "It was a coach's decision. I decide who I want in the lineup to give us the best chance to win on any given day," said Martin, who would not reveal his plans for tonight's game.

 "We're going to need Jason down the road."

 MORE AGGRESSIVE

 There are two schools of thought as to why Vermette was in the lineup over Spezza.

 For openers, the normally patient Sens have altered their forechecking system, opting for a more aggressive approach that allows them to get on the Leafs defence quicker. Since Vermette is faster than Spezza, he could be considered more effective under that plan.

 Secondly, Vermette often kills penalties. Spezza is not a regular on that unit.

 While Martin is unlikely to alter a lineup that proved successful in the opener, the decision to scratch Spezza remains puzzling given the fact he is one of the most talented young players in the league.

 "I definitely want to play in Game 2," Spezza said. "It's good to see the team win but obviously I want to be in there."

 In an attempt to sort out what is going on, Spezza sought out the advice of veteran defenceman Curtis Leschyshyn, who also sat out Thursday.

 "I talked to him, but I mostly did a lot of listening more than anything," Leschyshyn said. "(Spezza's) frustrated with the situation and he should be. If he wasn't, then people would question his character and his desire to play."


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