Sitting out Spezza a puzzling move

BRUCE GARRIOCH, Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:35 AM ET


TORONTO --  Jason Spezza didn't take the news well.

The young Senators centre was bitterly disappointed when he learned he would not play in Game 1 of the Battle of Ontario last night against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. But it says here he'll play in this series sooner rather than later.

Senators coach Jacques Martin was coy with reporters at his pre-game press conference, saying Spezza's status hadn't been determined and that he would be a game-time decision.

If anybody wanted the real answer all they had to do was look on the ice where Spezza was skating with veterans Curtis Leschyshyn, Shaun Van Allen, Rob Ray, Todd Simpson and Binghamton call-up Josh Langfeld.

At that point, the decision on Spezza had already been made, and he wasted no time telling reporters he wasn't happy with it.

'A BIG DECISION'

And Spezza wasn't the only one surprised.

"I'm shocked that you're taking 60 points out of your lineup in the playoffs,'' Sportsnet analyst Nick Kypreos said yesterday. ''How bad defensively is this guy that (Martin) doesn't trust him to play in this kind of game? I don't know what to say about this. It's a big decision.

"What kind of message are you sending to the rest of your team? I don't know. I guess we've got to see how this whole thing plays out. I believe GMs and coaches have to minimize the reason they leave themselves open for questions. I just think this guy brings a lot of enthusiasm."

Like everybody else on the Senators, Spezza had an inconsistent season. But maybe Martin's mistake here was not sending this kind of message during the regular season, when problems could have been addressed.

Why wait until Game 1 of a difficult playoff series to make this decision?

Still, I can guarantee that Spezza will play sometime in this series. He has worked hard to learn the game.

Does he need to be better defensively? Absolutely. But there's no reason to believe Spezza isn't going to get his chance against the Leafs.

The timing of Martin's message just seems a little strange.

AROUND THE BOARDS: As the morning skate wrapped up yesterday at the ACC, Patrick Lalime and Martin had a short chat to make sure the Senators' No. 1 goalie was going to be good to go last night. Lalime confirmed he had fully recovered from a knee injury suffered March 27 vs. the Leafs. "He's been making a lot of progress in the last week and he felt good enough to say that he's ready," said Martin. Lalime's teammates were happy to see him back in the net. "He's our guy," said captain Daniel Alfredsson. "We trust (backup) Martin Prusek, but (Lalime) has been our guy all year and we're happy to have him back." Leafs backup Trevor Kidd noted the rest might have done Lalime some good. "I don't think not playing for 10 days before the playoffs is going to hurt him. He's been playing so much hockey it must have helped him," said Kidd ... Leafs pest Darcy Tucker was a scratch for Game 1 because of an abdominal strain. "I'm hoping to get back in the lineup as quickly as possible," he said. "I'm going to be re-evaluated. We'll see how it goes and I hope to get back in there as quickly as possible." Tucker is wary about rushing back too soon. "You don't want to put yourself in jeopardy of risking more injury and being gone for a long period,'' said Tucker, who isn't expected to return before Game 3 on Monday. ''The 13 games I've already missed have been tough." Leafs defenceman Ken Klee is expected to play in Game 2 tomorrow.


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