Sen not up to scratch

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 4:23 PM ET

 TORONTO -- Sitting out isn't sitting well with Jason Spezza.

 Judging by yesterday's 35-minute workout at the Ricoh Coliseum, the Senators' dynamic young winger will be a healthy scratch for the second straight playoff game tonight against the Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.

  "I definitely want to play in Game 2, but as I said before, I don't make that call," said Spezza. "As a player you want to be in there and you want to compete. I'm glad the team won, but as a competitor it's tough to watch."

 Had the Senators not walked out of Game 1 with a 4-2 victory, including power-play goals from defenceman Wade Redden and winger Marian Hossa, there's a good chance that Spezza would have cracked tonight's lineup.

 But Senators coach Jacques Martin doesn't like to change a winning combination, which puts Spezza in the press box again. Martin, however, did tell reporters that Spezza is going to get an opportunity to play at some time or another.

 "This is the coach's decision," said Martin of Spezza. "As I've said before, I don't have to explain those decisions. These are decisions that a coach has to make and I believe I explained that (Spezza) is going to play in this series.

 "I have to decide the people I want to put in the lineup to help us win hockey games. We're definitely going to need Jason Spezza and right now the best thing for him is to stay ready to play. I know it's frustrating when you're not in the lineup, but we have a lot of extra people. Those guys have to stay ready to do the job if they're needed."

 Spezza skated with the other scratches on Thursday -- including veterans Rob Ray, Curtis Leschyshyn, Shaun Van Allen, Todd Simpson and Binghamton callup Josh Langfeld -- and wasn't very happy as he explained the situation to reporters.

 Leschyshyn, who can sympathize with the 20-year-old, said yesterday he had a long chat with Spezza about sitting on the sidelines.

 "I talked to him, but I mostly did a lot of listening more than anything," said Leschyshyn. "(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.

 'WANT TO CONTRIBUTE'

 "Guys who are frustrated are disappointed because they want to play and they want to contribute. Jason Spezza has the competitive edge and he's like all of us, he wants to be in there helping the team to win. It's tough right now.

 "It's a difficult situation for all of us, but the best thing any of us can do is just stay ready to play. It's tough to take personally, but you have to make sure you stay ready because you could get your chance at any time."

 Toronto radio stations tried to turn this into a war between Martin and Spezza. One host even claimed that Spezza could demand a trade following this season.

 But the Senator refused to respond to that kind of talk.

 The reality is Spezza is going to play in this series. It's doubtful it will be tonight, but it could be Monday or Wednesday in Ottawa and if the series goes long, then it could be back in Toronto for Game 5 on Friday.

 "Maybe it's going to be just like last year where I came in for (Game 5) in the playoff series against New Jersey," said Spezza. "I'll be there and I'll be ready. It's frustrating, but that's all I can do. I want to help this team win."

 Ray, a close friend of Spezza's, didn't want to discuss the subject with reporters yesterday. Instead, Ray challenged the writers to tell him whom they'd take out of the lineup to give Spezza some playing time.

 "This is about the team having success," said Ray.

 Ray is absolutely right.

 And sooner or later, Spezza is going to get a chance to be a bigger piece of the winning puzzle.


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