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Over the Boards: Olympic snub motivating Spezza

by Dan Rosen /

Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean and general manager Bryan Murray ought to send thank-you cards to Steve Yzerman and Mike Babcock for leaving Jason Spezza off the invitation list for Canada's Olympic orientation camp last month.

For as much as the perceived snub left Spezza angry and upset, emotions he admittedly still feels today, it also gave him the exact kick-in-the-pants type of drive that should mean only good things for the Senators this season.

"It's great motivation," Spezza told "I didn't play for most of last year, so coming into the year I feel like I have a lot to prove just to get back to where my game was before I got hurt. I was pretty motivated coming into the season just on that alone, but not being included in the Olympic camp definitely gives me an extra chip on my shoulder.

"Any time as a player you can find extra motivation and look to prove people wrong it's a good thing."


Jason Spezza talking about how he has helped Bobby Ryan get introduced to Ottawa and the way he wants to build chemistry with him:
"We talked on the phone when we first traded for him a couple of times just to help him out city-wise, that kind of jazz. This past week we started skating together, and I don't want to force it. I talked to him about it too. From experience in the past, I've played with some good players, and in my opinion the best thing is to just let it happen. I communicate a lot with my linemates as it is during games and as we get into training camp and exhibition games that's when we'll have the chance to find out about each other's games. I don't think it has to be something that is forced. If you have chemistry it will come. I've been through it before with different guys."
Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman talking about how the team's experience of struggling after winning the Stanley Cup in 2010 will help this season:
When you've been through something before, really in any walk of life, the second time around you know what to expect. We've seen the challenges we faced last time and we have the advantage of having more chemistry out of the gate. We've got a similar team to what we had a few months ago. And on top of that, I think the players are aware of what we went through last time and they're going to be committed to making sure we start the season better and put ourselves in a better spot."

Spezza missed 43 games last season after having surgery to repair a herniated disc that was touching a nerve in his back. He returned in time to play in Ottawa's final three Stanley Cup Playoff games, but the injury was the reason he was not invited to the Olympic camp.

"They called me before they released the [invitation] list and told me I wasn't going to be on it. It was a quick conversation," Spezza said. "They told me I didn't play last year, that I'm still on the radar for them but I'm not going to be attending the camp. I told them I am disappointed and that was pretty much the end of the conversation."

But not the end of the story, by any means.

Spezza's goal now is to play so well that Yzerman and Babcock simply can't leave him off the roster when it is named in late December. It would be the ultimate told-you-so for Spezza and arguably the best thing that could happen to the Senators early in the season.

Spezza has a reasonable chance to do it, too, because he's healthy now after going through the most disappointing season of his professional career.

"It [stinks] watching," Spezza said. "It was not a fun year for myself [or] my wife. When I'm around and in pain, going through that, it's not fun for anyone."

Spezza said he was in so much pain before the surgery that he couldn't sleep or sit in a chair for more than five minutes. The pain from the disc touching the nerve radiated down his legs.

"It was unbearable," he said. "It was probably the worst pain I could imagine. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy."

After having the surgery, he wasn't allowed to bend at the hip for six weeks.

"I couldn't pick my kids up for, I think, six or eight weeks, so that was tough," said Spezza, who has two daughters, ages 3 and 1.

Spezza is 100 percent now and said he's skated more this offseason than he ever has before. He still feels the sting of the Olympic camp rejection, and he's planning to do something about it once the puck drops this season.

"It's just a matter of proving it to [Yzerman and Babcock]," Spezza said. "You can't pick those teams; all you can do is play well."

Spin-o-rama in shootouts, hybrid icing and instigating

The NHL's general managers were hoping to make the spin-o-rama in shootouts illegal for this season, but there was no support at the NHLPA level.

Mike Murphy, the NHL's Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations, told that he isn't sure if the general managers will review the topic again in the near future.

"I would say it's put to bed for a few years," Murphy said.

The concern among the general managers was that the spin-o-rama in shootouts too closely toes the line between legal and illegal.

The NHL Rulebook states that for shootout and penalty-shot attempts, "the puck must be kept in motion toward the opponent's goal line." It also states that the spin-o-rama is legal because it "involves continuous motion."

"There were a lot of questions as to whether the puck was still moving forward or the player was still moving forward," Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations, said following the Board of Governors meeting in June. "Certainly it's all about entertainment, but also it's about the integrity of the goal and over time that has become more and more in question."

The players like the spin-o-rama in shootouts because it gives them another potential way to score in an already difficult skills competition (goalies have stopped 67 percent of shootout attempts since the tiebreaker was instituted in 2005-06), and it adds an entertainment value to the shootout.

"I don't think it should be illegal," Minnesota Wild left wing Zach Parise told over the summer. "I get where they're coming from, but it's still a difficult thing to do."

Hybrid icing will be used in the preseason and the players are expected to vote on it prior to the regular season. If they like it and the vote passes, hybrid icing will be used in the 2013-14 regular season.

The additional penalty for instigating a fight with a face shield (visor) on has been erased from the rulebook because visors now are mandatory for all players with fewer than 26 games of NHL experience. Players still will receive the two-minute minor penalty for instigating a fight, but in the past they would have received an additional two minutes for doing it while wearing a visor.

Clarkson emotional in return to 'The Rock'

David Clarkson
David Clarkson
G: 97 | A: 73 | P: 170
SOG: 1,033 | +/-: -32
The Toronto Maple Leafs won't play at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. until March 23, and by then right wing David Clarkson will be fully ensconced in blue and white with the hope of a playoff push serving as his only motivation.

That's why it was so emotional for Clarkson, who spent the first six full seasons of his NHL career with the New Jersey Devils, when he returned to his former home last week during the NHL's Player Media Tour. It was Clarkson's first time back since signing his seven-year, $37 million contract with the Maple Leafs. He made sure to make it a memorable trip, even if it was for promotional reasons.

"It was hard," Clarkson told "I'm walking in there and I guess just by habit I almost walked into the Devils' locker room. Some of the trainers were there and I was like, 'Am I allowed to step in here or what?' They all came out and said hello. It's different."

Clarkson made a trip up to Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello's office to thank him in person for bringing him into the NHL and for giving him a chance to carve out his identity as a player.

"Mr. Lamoriello gave me my first opportunity and I have more respect for him than anybody in the game of hockey," Clarkson said. "I'm excited to be wearing that blue and white, but it was definitely a weird feeling [being at Prudential Center]. I can't describe it. It was a weird feeling in my belly just walking around there.

"Not only that, I got close with the guys that paint the rink by saying hello to them in the morning or asking how their kids are doing. That was probably the hardest part, seeing those guys and talking to them."

This and that

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
G: 22 | A: 54 | P: 76
SOG: 212 | +/-: 1
* Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is only 20, definitely young enough to live up to the potential he carried into the NHL as the No. 1 pick of the 2011 NHL Draft. But the Edmonton Oilers should be concerned about the durability of their talented center because of his slight frame.

Nugent-Hopkins is expected to miss the first month of the regular season recovering from surgery he had in April to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He has played two seasons since being drafted, and his left shoulder has been a problem in both.

Maybe the surgery will do the trick and fix the recurring problems Nugent-Hopkins has been having with the shoulder, but it doesn't change the fact that he has to find a way to add strength to his 6-foot-1 body or injuries will continue to plague him.

He's still going through the maturation process, and since he didn't enter the League with a so-called man's body like Gabriel Landeskog (6-foot, 207 pounds when he was drafted), the No. 2 pick in 2011, it will take Nugent-Hopkins some time to beef up. However, he has to speed up his physical development so he can become the all-star player the Oilers expect him to be.

* Unlike Nugent-Hopkins, Darren Helm's size and strength isn't a concern for the Detroit Red Wings; however, his durability most definitely is an issue. Helm likely will miss the start of training camp with a pulled groin after sitting out all but one game last season with a back injury. It's possible that in doing extra workouts to strengthen his lower back Helm overcompensated and injured his groin.

Helm plays with speed and is assigned to go into the tough areas, like around the front of the net and in the corners. He has to be able to skate and play in traffic, and he needs to be able to take a hit and give a hit. So far Helm has struggled to do that and stay healthy, and this new groin problem only adds to the questions the Red Wings already have to have about their fast, talented, yet fragile 26-year-old center.

* The Chicago Blackhawks will have a full house at Compton Family Ice Arena on the campus of the University of Notre Dame for practices Saturday and Sunday. The team announced that all tickets have been sold to the open practices they're having in South Bend, Ind. They're also practicing at Notre Dame on Thursday and Friday, but those workouts are closed to the public.

In addition, the Blackhawks announced that they've sold out the United Center for their intrasquad scrimmage Monday. Coach Joel Quenneville is expected to be wearing a microphone during the scrimmage.

It pays to be the champs.

* Brian Leetch, hired last month to work in the NHL's Department of Player Safety, will be working out of his Boston home and commuting to the League's New York City office when necessary. Stephane Quintal, who also works in the Player Safety Department, lives in Montreal. Rob Blake, who left the Player Safety Department to become the Los Angeles Kings' assistant general manager, worked from his home in Los Angeles.

Leetch has three children (13, 10 and 8), who are involved in school and sports in the Boston area. His new role with the NHL precludes him from continuing on as a part-time analyst for the New York Rangers on MSG.

"Conflict of interest," Leetch told

* Former Dallas Stars center Mike Modano has married into a hockey family, officially tying the knot with Allison Micheletti, daughter of New York Rangers and NHL Network broadcaster Joe Micheletti. Modano and Micheletti, a professional golfer, were married in Dallas on Sept. 1.


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