Jason Spezza and the Senators get on the same page after rumor-filled summer

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GYI0060050577-spezza-fiume-getty.jpgThe weird and wild summer of Jason Spezza that saw him go from potentially wanting to be out of Ottawa after some rough handling at the hands of Senators fans to saying that he loves Ottawa and never wanted to be dealt has finally been squared away. Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun tells us that Spezza and Sens GM Bryan Murray have aired their grievances and Ottawa’s own version of Festivus can finally be over.

“We had a really good meeting in the middle of the summer,” Murray said Saturday. “We had a real good discussion and maybe there was a little bit of exaggeration on my part when I made a couple of comments that he wanted out.

“He just wants, like a lot of players, to be important and to feel that we understand what he wants to be (during) his career and what he’s capable of being. We’ve got a guy who is committed to the Ottawa Senators.”

Murray said Spezza doesn’t have to be superhuman.

“We need him to be Jason Spezza,” said Murray. “The ability level that this guy has is pretty high in comparison to a lot of players in the league. We just want him to be that.

It’s great that both sides have finally put their differences aside and have avoided having another potentially ugly Dany Heatley like scenario unfold in Ottawa, but you can’t help but wonder if maybe Spezza’s mental mettle isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

If you want to read between the lines a bit, Murray’s words are rather curious considering his statement about how much Spezza wants to “feel important” to the team. After all, Spezza is the team’s first line center and he’s generally the guy setting up Daniel Alfredsson. Perhaps Mike Fisher’s breakout-like season got to his ego because Fisher became a bit of a fan favorite in Ottawa and not just because he’s got a famous girlfriend. It’s all crazy and speculative but something worth keeping an eye on with expectations being a bit higher now for the Senators after finishing fifth in the Eastern Conference last year.

(Photo: Greg Fiume – Getty Images)

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

graphic via NHL
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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.

Blackhawks bolster Central lead, shine harsh light on Penguins’ struggles

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Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.

The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.

Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.

With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.

They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.