Senators looking forward to a happy hockey holiday

Asked on Monday morning if he thought the three-day Christmas break would help his struggling team, Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean couldn’t resist the joke: Maybe they’d find the answer under the tree.

Senators looking forward to a happy hockey holiday
Santa Claus brought some candy for the Ottawa Senators fans during first period of NHL action at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, December 21, 2013. Photo by Jean Levac/Ottawa Citizen

Asked on Monday morning if he thought the three-day Christmas break would help his struggling team, Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean couldn’t resist the joke: Maybe they’d find the answer under the tree.

Ah, if it were that easy.

But the three days of rest will at least give the players and coaches a chance for reflection before they’re back at it on Friday with a home-and-home, back-to-back set with the Boston Bruins.

Jason Spezza says, this year more than ever, he probably needs to step away from hockey for a few days. He’s usually not very successful, since the game is always at “the back of your mind,” he said.

But it helps that his two daughters, 3 1/2-year-old Sophia and 1 1/2-year-old Nicola, are demanding distractions.

“With my little girls, they make it pretty hard to think about anything other than Christmas,” he said. “They’re pretty excited right now. That’s the advantage of having kids, and young kids, too — they get so excited about it.”

Spezza will be going to Toronto to visit family before returning for an early-morning flight on Friday to Boston.

But not everyone will be getting away from hockey completely.

Chris Phillips plans to put his skates to use on his outdoor rink.

“I’m not going to dwell on the things that haven’t been good for us, but I’m looking forward to the break and spending time on the outdoor rink,” he said. “So it won’t be as if I’ve completely forgot about the game.

“It’s a good chance to rest up, mentally, to have that break. But it’s only a couple of days and we’re right back at it.”

Probably the happiest Senator to be where he is at the Christmas break is Cody Ceci. He gets to spend it at home, in an Ottawa sweater.

He would have been home from Christmas even if had still been with the Binghamton Senators, but beating the NHL roster freeze means he’s spared the 4 1/2-hour drive to and from Binghamton. Plus, it’s a lot easier for his family to watch his games.

“It’s pretty nice to be here,” he said. “I would have come home anyway, but just to come home a couple of weeks early and play in the NHL, it’s what every kid would ask for. For me, that was an early Christmas present.”

Even if his team hasn’t been getting the results he would have expected at the start of the season, this Christmas will be a special one for MacLean and his wife Sharon. Their three children, A.J., David, and Erin, will be here.

And the coach had a Christmas message for fans.

“Stay patient,” he said. “We’re still finding our way.

“But we want to wish everybody a very Merry Christmas and holiday season. It’s a wonderful time of the year, especially when there’s kids around.

“My wife and I have our three kids together for the first time in 10 years, so we’re looking forward to having a real nice family Christmas, and we wish everybody the same.”

And to all a good night.

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