By IAN MENDES
Even though he has yet to score a goal this season, you won’t be hearing Jason Spezza complaining about a diminished role any time soon.
That’s because the star centre – often criticized for his lack of attention to defense – has been playing in more situations and helping the team win games without getting on the scoresheet.
“I still want to be better offensively and would like to get on the board. Maybe in the past, I wouldn’t be contributing unless I was scoring. But now, I think I’m contributing without scoring,” said Spezza.
The 26-year-old is known as one of the most talented and creative players in the league, but he’s been held to just four assists in seven games this season. Despite the lack of production from his star, head coach Cory Clouston is not complaining about Spezza’s game.
“It’s easy to judge someone like that just by offensive production. The thing we like about him is he’s trying to expand his role and expand his game,” explained Clouston. “His play is a lot better than his offensive production is.”
The increased role for Spezza is most evident in penalty killing situations, where he is now being used by Clouston. Spezza’s willingness to expand his defensive responsibilities comes at a time when he is trying to show Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman that he can be a complete player.
“It’s been a role that I’ve really welcomed. Getting a chance to go out and take key faceoffs and kill penalties and try to grow my game defensively,” added Spezza. “It also helps that the team is having success when I’m playing a role like that.”
Spezza, who has twice broken the 90-point plateau in the NHL, has a legitimate shot to make Team Canada after he was a last-minute addition to the summer orientation camp.
He has yet to find chemistry with new linemate Jonathan Cheechoo – as both are without a goal through the first seven games.
But Spezza told reporters on Monday that he believes the chemistry with Cheechoo and Milan Michalek is getting close – and that having three days of practice before their next game will help the trio immensely.
Notes: Peter Regin has fully recovered from an upper body injury that caused him to miss the past three games. Expect to see him in the lineup on Thursday vs Nashville. In practice on Monday, Regin skated on the third line with Nick Foligno and Chris Neil as his wingers … Filip Kuba (lower body) has not skated with teammates for two weeks, but Clouston says there is progress to report on his injury. All signs point to him returning to practice on Tuesday …. Clouston hinted that Brian Elliott might start one of the next two games for Ottawa. The Senators host Nashville on Thursday and Boston on Saturday … More than 3,000 school-aged children attended the Senators practice on Monday, as part of a “Field Trip” promotion held by the team.