For the second time this season the Ottawa Senators have had a player named offensive player of the week by the NHL. Centre Jason Spezza received that honour after leading all NHL scorers with eight points (four goals, four assists) during three wins for the period ending Nov. 27.
"It's nice to get recognized after the team gets three wins," said the Mississauga native after Monday morning's practice.
Spezza, 22, duplicated the feat of captain Daniel Alfredsson who captured the same honour for the period ending on Nov. 6. Like Alfredsson, this is Spezza's first time receiving the award. The two have teamed up with Dany Heatley to form the NHL's most offensive line this season.
Spezza's week began with the game-winning goal and an assist in a 5-3 win in Carolina over the Hurricanes on Tuesday. In New York Friday afternoon against the Islanders, Spezza recorded a goal and an assist in a 6-2 victory. On Saturday night at home, Spezza treated the hometown crowd to his second four-point game of the season (two goals, two assists) during a 4-2 win over the Boston Bruins.
Spezza's hot week placed him in a tie for the NHL scoring lead with 39 points (10 goals, 29 assists) with teammate Daniel Alfredsson, the Philadelphia Flyers' Peter Forsberg and New York Ranger Jaromir Jagr as of Sunday. Heatley sits alone in fifth with 37 points.
Coach Bryan Murray says Spezza deserved the weekly award for his role in the Senators' wins and the skill level he demonstrated in those games.
"He was real key in a couple of wins for us. I like watching him, too. When he has the puck, he's a real talented player."
Chris Neil back with his ‘brothers'
While Chris Neil grieved with his family last week over the tragic death of his mother; Bonnie, in a car accident, the Senators forward knew it was important to get back playing hockey.
Rejoining his extended family in the Ottawa Senators' dressing room Monday morning was an important part in the healing process for Neil.
"I know my mom would want me to get right back at it," Neil said after practice.
"There's been great support from everyone making me able to get through it all. When I came in the room here it was a warm welcome and I got some big hugs. Mr. Melnyk (Eugene, Ottawa Senators owner) has been unbelievable in supporting me. That meant so much to the family."
Neil says he owes a lot of his success to his mother.
"She used to chase me around the track with the car while I was running. I think of all the memories. She'll be out there with me. She was just as excited as I was. She was so proud of me, you could see it in her eyes. She was the glue that kept our family together. She'll be deeply missed, and I cherish every second I spent with her."
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said the players are happy to have their teammate and friend back again.
"This is a tough time for him. I think he's happy to be back on the ice again, and certainly we're happy to have him back. We're here for him."
Coach Bryan Murray doesn't expect to see a slip in Neil's play, despite the brief layoff and emotions he experienced last week.
"When something happens like this, its good to be around a group you're comfortable with. I think the way Chris is, we'll see the real deal from him."
Senators thank Canadian military
The Army News from Ottawa attended the Senators practice on Monday asking players to share greetings for troops during the upcoming holiday season. Players and coaches took their turn in front of the camera, wishing Canadian Armed Forces men and women, both in Canada and overseas, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Emery to net hat trick vs Canadiens
Good things always come in threes. At least that's what Senators rookie goaltender Ray Emery is banking on. Tuesday night the Hamilton native (5-0-0 this season) goes for an NHL record ninth straight victory to start his NHL career, and it comes against a familiar opponent. For the third game in a row, Emery will start against the Montreal Canadiens.
Emery is currently tied with Bob Froese, who set the original mark of eight straight wins to start his career with the Philadelphia Flyers during the 1982-83 season.
Emery's three other career wins came during the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons.
Murray said Emery has looked comfortable against Montreal in every start this season, which includes a pre-season match as well as the two regular-season games.
"He's winning all the time we play them. In the pre-season, he did very well and he looks very poised against them."
"I know what to expect," Emery said on Monday of the Canadiens.
"I've seen their shooters before. I'm just excited every chance I get to play. It's been about a week so I thought I might get one of the back-to-back games on the weekend. If you (don't play) for just a week, it's not too bad. You just have to stay sharp in practice."
And what about the chance of breaking an NHL record?
"Personal goals are always fun to get, but the main thing is winning the game," he said.
In this case, team and individual goals go hand-in-hand.
Chara to get even more action?
With Wade Redden nursing a knee injury, Zdeno Chara has played more than 30 minutes a game recently. Coach Bryan Murray thinks the Big Z could and wants to play even more.
"He's one of those players who just wants to be on the ice. He's a guy who's very strong and real well-conditioned. He offsets the talented forwards on the other team. Z is able to match and shut them down for the most part. He continues to grow. He's a young man who's going to get better and better. He's a real cornerstone to this franchise."