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Spezza happy to answer Team Canada's call

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Jason Spezza still has some hockey left in him this season.

The Ottawa Senators centre confirmed today that he's accepted an invitation from Team Canada to wear the red maple leaf at the 2011 IIHF World Hockey Championship, which begins April 29 in Slovakia.

"I'm looking forward to getting the chance to play and it extends my year, which is exciting for me," said Spezza, who got the call from Team Canada general manager Dave Nonis earlier this week.

It'll be the third appearance at the hockey worlds for the 27-year-old Spezza, one of the hottest players in the National Hockey League down the stretch with 24 points in his last 17 games. The previous two times, in 2008 and 2009, he brought home silver medals. But only one colour will do this time.

"That's the only result I'm going there for," Spezza said of the opportunity to strike gold. "I've had personal success in tournaments before, but the gold medal has eluded me. I want to make sure I have a good tournament, play whatever role they want me to (play) and come back with the gold."

Heading into Saturday's season finale in Boston against the Bruins (1 p.m., CBC, Team 1200), Spezza has totalled a team-high 56 points in 61 games, including 21 goals. Most of that has been produced since he returned to the lineup in early February after missing six weeks with a right shoulder injury. But that's only part of the story.

Following the trade of six veterans later that month, head coach Cory Clouston increased Spezza's ice time and asked him to shoulder more of the load on specialty teams, including penalty killing. Simply put, he's much more than an offensively productive player, which Spezza believe caught the eyes of Team Canada management.

"You always play different roles over there," he said. "Showing them I can play a complete game is one of the reasons I'm going (to the worlds). I'm sure I'll get a good opportunity to play in all situations and be a guy that contributes to having success."

Columbus Blue Jackets sniper Rick Nash and centre Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche are also among the group to accept early Team Canada invites, along with forward Chris Stewart and defenceman Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues, and winger Andrew Ladd of the Atlanta Thrashers.

"They're waiting to see what happens with the playoff picture (to fill out the roster)," said Spezza. "The great thing about being Canadian is you love playing for your country and you don't see too many guys saying no. A lot of guys, if they do make the playoffs, are excited to get the chance to play. I hope that everybody that gets asked accepts (the invite) and we have a good team and give ourselves the best chance to win."

Canada opens the world tournament against Belarus on April 29 in Kosice, Slovakia.

Several other Senators are likely to join Spezza at the worlds. Forward Ryan Shannon has already accept an invitation to play for the United States for the second time, while rookie Stephane Da Costa will suit up for France for the third straight year. Forward Milan Michalek has previously indicated a desire to play for the Czech Republic.

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