Jason Spezza expected to stay in Ottawa … for now

Thumbnail image for jspezza.jpgA year after Dany Heatley forced a trade out of Ottawa – but only to the teams he wanted to play for – it looked like disgruntled center Jason Spezza might follow a similar path. After all, Senators fans booed the talented but defensively questionable forward during the team’s first round loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in this year’s playoffs.

While the real story might be that no one really wanted to sacrifice a piece or two for Spezza, it seems like the playmaker will be a part of the team going into the 2010-11 season. Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reports that Senators GM Bryan Murray claims that Spezza will be staying put.

While the Senators centre told GM Bryan Murray he wouldn’t “object” to being dealt, the Senators couldn’t find any dance partners before Spezza’s “no move” clause kicked in at midnight Thursday.

He certainly won’t be traded after Ottawa owner Eugene Melnyk stroked a cheque for a $4-million bonus owed to Spezza.

Murray said he studied the market for Spezza and a deal that made sense.

“Throw cold water on it,” said Murray. “As of today, there’s nothing happening with Jason Spezza other than he’s a member of the Ottawa Senators. We have had conversations leading up to (Thursday).

“I understand his frustration. I do. He’s a player that has really good talent and he wants to be on a winning hockey team. He was frustrated at the end of the year because the finger was pointed a little too much at him and maybe also the fact we didn’t beat Pittsburgh in the first round.

“As of right now, my thoughts are going forward.”

General managers are often quick to shoot down rumors – even if there secretly were talks on the subject in question – so it’s surprising that Murray has been so candid about the process. Such a stance implies (to me, anyway) that Spezza is still on the market in many ways.

That being said, the rumor mill regarding the potent passer should die down. For a little while, at least.

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    Kesler believes Ducks are ‘too good to not be in the playoffs’

    Shane Doan, Ryan Kesler
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    It’s been 24 games for the Anaheim Ducks, more than a quarter of the season, and still they’re having trouble winning.

    Friday against Chicago, they surrendered two goals in the last two minutes of regulation and lost in overtime.

    Currently, the Ducks sit five points out of a playoff spot with a record of 8-11-5.

    Still, forward Ryan Kesler is confident they’ll find a way into the postseason.

    “If we keep playing like we are, we’re going to get into the playoffs — this team is too good to not be in the playoffs,” Kesler told The Province ahead of tonight’s home game versus Vancouver.

    “We had a bad start and, to be honest, some guys weren’t ready to start the season. There’s a lot of hockey to be played and we’re ready for the challenge.”

    To match the 45-30-7 record the Flames squeaked into the playoffs with last year, the Ducks would need to go 37-19-2 over their next 58 games.




    Depends who you ask.

    Anaheim’s playoff chances will depend a lot on how Pacific Division teams like San Jose, Arizona, and Vancouver finish. The Ducks may need to leapfrog two of those three to get in.

    Yes, there’s always the chance four teams from the Pacific qualify, because it’s not like Colorado, Winnipeg, and Minnesota don’t have their problems. Even Nashville you have to wonder about lately. Heck, even Chicago isn’t assured of anything yet.

    Bottom line, though, the Ducks have dug themselves a hole, and it’s starting to look a lot like the one the Kings dug last year.

    In the NHL, even good teams don’t always climb out.

    Related: Boudreau does the playoff math, and it’s no ‘easy task’ for Ducks

    Video: Ryan Suter doesn’t seem very happy with his coach


    As you can see in the video, apparently Ryan Suter doesn’t like being paired with fellow lefty Jonas Brodin.

    The Wild defenseman rather openly questioned the coaching staff’s decision-making today after practice.

    “Yeah, I don’t know what they’re thinking,” said Suter. “I need to play with a right-handed defenseman. To give me more options. Neutral zone. Offensively. And even coming out of the D zone, it’s not fair to put a guy on his off side.”

    Suter didn’t know if the pairings were just for practice or not. The Wild play tomorrow in Chicago. Minnesota has just one win in its last seven games.

    Suter also had something to say about that.

    “It does no good to pout and get pissed off at each other,” said Suter. “You’ve got to come together and dig out of this. Now’s when you need leadership more than ever. It’s easy to be a coach and a leader when things are going good.”

    Yeo, by the way, has not been very happy with the Wild lately.  In fact, one could go so far as to say he’s been acting pretty “pissed off.”

    For example, at today’s practice:

    The Star Tribune has more on what went down today.

    Yeo, you may recall, went a little “nuts” during a Wild practice last season.

    Goalie nods: Sparks to make NHL debut for Leafs

    Garett Sparks

    We already knew this yesterday, but in case you missed it, Garret Sparks will make his NHL debut in goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight against Edmonton.

    Sparks, 22, has been excellent in the AHL this season, going 8-2-1 with a .938 save percentage. He spent most of last season in the ECHL, where he also posted good numbers.

    Sparks is getting the nod tonight because James Reimer is hurt and Jonathan Bernier has been struggling badly.

    “He’s got an opportunity like lots of kids have had before him and it’s up to him to grab it,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said, per NHL.com. “He’s got the [second-best] save percentage in the AHL and he’s winning all the time down there. Obviously we’re in need of some saves and we’ll have to play well in front of him for sure. But it’s an opportunity for him.”

    Bernier, meanwhile, will have to sit and watch. The 27-year-old has allowed at least four goals in four of his last five starts. His save percentage has fallen all the way to .888.

    Anders Nilsson will be in net for the Oilers.


    Cam Ward for the Hurricanes. Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers, who will try not to rely on him so much.

    Semyon Varlamov for the Avs. Thomas Greiss for the Isles.

    — The Canucks aren’t saying if it’ll be Ryan Miller of Jacob Markstrom. For the Ducks, it’ll be John Gibson.

    Vigneault: ‘After three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention’

    Alain Vigneault

    Alain Vigneault has maintained for much of the season that the New York Rangers needed to play better.

    The head coach said it a week ago, after the Blueshirts had beaten the Predators, 3-0, despite getting outshot, 31-19.

    He’d said it a couple of weeks before that, after they’d beaten the Hurricanes in very similar fashion. (Final score: 3-0. Shots: 33-23 for Carolina.)

    But as long as the Rangers kept winning, it was tough, according to Vigneault, to get the message across.

    “Sometimes, the results might be going your way, so when you’re pointing out certain things, it might be a little bit more challenging for them to understand because the results are so positive,” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.

    “But after three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention.”

    Derek Stepan‘s injury — he’ll miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs — has no doubt captured their attention as well. (Oscar Lindberg will center Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast tonight at home to Carolina.)

    The Rangers also play Wednesday, in Brooklyn against the Islanders (on NBCSN).