Reduced to the role of spoiler — and brother, they sure could do some serious spoiling at Scotiabank Place Thursday night — the Senators will almost certainly have players taking part in some more meaningful games at the world championship next month in Slovakia.
If the individuals are allowed to go, that is.
“I do have to ask permission,” joked Jason Spezza, who became a first-time parent with wife Jennifer last summer. “We’ve already had the conversation (in case) I did get asked. She’s all for it.”
Spezza will no doubt be contacted by Dave Nonis, the Toronto Maple Leafs senior vice-president of hockey operations who, it is being reported, will be named Team Canada’s GM, assisted by Rob Blake. Similar slam-dunk decisions would figure to be made on Erik Karlsson by Sweden and Nick Foligno by Team USA.
“There are still lots of games left, but it’s obviously something I’m definitely interested in. It’s always an honour to get asked to go play there,” said Foligno, before playfully adding: “I’ve got to ask the fiancee first. We’ve got a lot of wedding plans to do. I don’t know if I’ll be able to slip away, but I don’t think she’d mind too much. We’ll see what happens.”
Karlsson was scouted and met by Swedish officials for the third time this season when the Senators were in Florida last week. They didn’t talk to him about actually playing in the worlds — that wouldn’t be right, with Ottawa’s season 12 games from over — but there is the assumption Karlsson will be part of the team.
“Obviously, I went last year and I had a great time,” said Karlsson, the Senators’ leading scorer by one point over Spezza. “Obviously, I have the opportunity to go this year as well. There are still a lot of games to go in the month, a lot of things could happen.
“You don’t want to look forward to it right now, you’ve still got to finish this year. We’ll see after the year if they’re willing to have me or not, if I am able to go or not. It’s a question mark right now.”
Playing for one’s country in the worlds is bittersweet, as it means the NHL team the player is on is not participating in the playoffs.
“It’s a different feeling,” said Spezza. “You’re pretty disappointed. I’ve never played in the world championships where I’ve been done this soon, but you always go there a little bit disappointed. As the tournament goes on, you get into it, you bond with the guys, and it feels like it’s playoffs. You feel like you’re playing for the same thing the guys in the playoffs are.
“Maybe a year like this, I’m looking forward to it a little more just because it’s nice to play some meaningful hockey down the stretch.”
With one so far elusive target for him to reach.
“My main reason for wanting to go is I’ve won two silver medals, and I really want to win a gold,” said Spezza. “I’d like to be a part of it. Hopefully, they want to include me.”
Meanwhile, the Senators will entertain New Jersey Thursday in a game the surging Devils need to win if they are to keep alive their hopes of what was not so long ago deemed an impossible run. The Devils are 23-3-2 in their past 28 games, a stretch that includes a 2-1 loss to the Senators in New Jersey last week.
That had them six points out of the playoff picture heading into Wednesday’s games.