Spezza grinding it out

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:06 AM ET

HALIFAX -- Jason Spezza. Fourth liner?

"Grinding it out. It's the strengh of my game," said the Ottawa Senator who produced 92 points this season.

Spezza practised on the fourth line yesterday with Jason Chimera and Patrick Sharp as the coaching staff began reconstruction of lines and defensive pairings as a result of weaknesses exposed in a 5-4 win over the U.S.

Hitchcock admitted the optics of Spezza's ice time dropping to 9:50 during the game and his moving to the fourth line, look like Spezza has been demoted.

"I know it does. But don't read too much into it," said head coach Ken Hitchcock.

If Spezza was sulking, he certainly didn't show it.

"Here, there are so many good players," he said of being moved from the second line with Eric Staal and Martin St. Louis and his position taken over by Derek Roy.

"Staal will move to centre and I'll centre this line. I just want to have a regular shift. It's tough on these teams when everybody is a centre.

"They talked to me today," he said of the coaching staff making sure he understands the thinking behind the move. "It's hard to complain about playing with someone like Sharpy. He had what, 40 goals this year?"

Thirty-six, actually.

Hitchcock had his second, third and fourth lines in the blender for much of the game against the U.S. and was mixing defensive pairings as well.

"There's not much time to gel," said Rick Nash, who is having great success on the first line with Dany Heatley and Ryan Getzlaf. "Things were a little bit changed today at practice."

"Certain guys feel a little more comfortable with their defensive pairings than other guys," said Steve Staios. "It takes a little time to get the chemistry. We have to find our way soon. I'm sure we're moving in the right direction. It's a lot of work."


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