Sen a lumbering sort

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:43 PM ET

Goals - sometimes the word just doesn't do them justice - like the overtime winner Senators centre Jason Spezza scored Thursday night, don't just grow on trees.

Well, actually, they do, to a certain extent.

Spezza is one of the last NHLers -- Spezza figures there's about 25 of the tree huggers like him left -- who use a wooden stick.

Spezza used his Sher-Wood model "SOP 9950" to toe drag around Canadiens defenceman Sheldon Souray in the right circle, then pulled a similar move on goaltender Jose Theodore.

Guess you could say Souray looked like he was lumbering on the play and Theodore was left barking up the wrong tree.

Spezza finished the highlight-reel goal and the game with a backhander to the roof of the net. The goal was still the buzz of the hockey world yesterday.

"I use wood for the feel," Spezza said yesterday as the Senators prepared for tonight's latest chapter of the Battle of Ontario against the Leafs in Toronto.

"I've used the same stick for seven or eight years. I've never played a game with a one-piece stick. I just never felt it was game-ready."

Spezza, who now has five goals and nine assists through eight games and was tied for fifth in NHL scoring yesterday, can understand the attraction of the composite sticks.

FIDDLES WITH HIS STICKS

"If you're a one-time guy, who shoots a lot, there's advantages to the one-piece," he said.

Spezza likes to fiddle with his sticks. He shaves down the toe on the second-tallest piece of lumber on the team after defenceman Zdeno Chara's.

Spezza's stick stands about 5-foot-10 or bigger than Tampa star Martin St. Louis by a couple of inches.

It's that reach that helps give Spezza one of his advantages.

"It gives me different angles for passing and that's one of the things I try to use, try to be unpredictable."

Senators coach Bryan Murray said he would like to see more players use the wooden sticks.

"I think all people should be using a wood stick, I really do," he said, "The few people that really benefit from the additional velocity ... I just think they would better off in the long run. First of all for the strength, I think the feel and and the cost to the team. I know that. Being in Anaheim I saw the budget go up so much more after the guys were switching over."

Spezza can obviously be a goal scorer, but his first instinct is usually to look for the pass. Murray would like see Spezza and others on the team branch out and turn over a new leaf.

"Until he does, I don't think he'll be the total offensive threat he could be," said Murray. "The whole idea of playing any sport is to take advantage of certain situations to create a different thing whether you're a running back or a playmaker in hockey.

"If you shoot the puck occasionally, things open up more often for you. Right now, he considers himself a playmaker.

MURRAY SEES LOTS OF POINTS

"I don't know if he'll ever be a 40- or 50-goal scorer," said Murray, "because I don't know if he gives himself a chance to do that. But he should be a huge point-getter in this league at some point in his career because of the combination of the way he shoots the puck and the way he sees the ice."

Spezza said he would like to find a "a happy medium" between goal-scoring and playmaking.

In the meantime, you'll see plenty of that goal in the lead up to tonight's game.

Spezza, a Mississauga native, talked about the goal with his dad.

"He said it was nice, but he said there were a couple I missed and I owed the team one," he said with a chuckle. "It was typical dad criticism. 'You had one, but you should have had three.' "

chris.stevenson@ott.sunpub.com


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