Spezza sits out date with Devils

Jason Spezza should have played his 600th NHL game last night. When he was on the ice for Tuesday’s morning skate, it looked like he would.
But he fell ill before the game and was scratched. How long he’ll be out wasn’t immediately known.
It’s been a difficult 10 days for Spezza since the March 10 death of his good friend, freestyle skier Nik Zoricic. Spezza served as a pallbearer at Monday’s funeral in Toronto.
His teammates have been doing what they can to buoy his spirits.
“It’s tough,” said captain Daniel Alfredsson. “There’s been a lot happening for him the last couple of weeks.
“But I think once you’re on the ice, you feel more comfortable than maybe when you’re lying at home and trying to sleep, going through everything.
“I think he’s done a great job handling the whole situation and we’ve tried to support him as much as we can.”
Bobby Butler subbed in for Spezza, who will now play his 600th game on Friday in Montreal.
“He has a lot going on right now and he’s gone through a lot,” said coach Paul MacLean. “But everybody goes through a lot at times in their lives and I think a lot of times a comfortable place to be is with your teammates.”
The fight game
MacLean wasn’t about to be drawn into a discussion on the melee between the New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers on Monday night or on the strategy of intimidating your opponent by putting your toughest players on the ice for the opening faceoff.
Asked two questions on the game, MacLean stickhandled deftly, offering a “I don’t really have an opinion on that” and “I didn’t think anything of it.”
Then again, he wasn’t taking any chances against the Devils, dressing Zenon Konopka for the first time in six games. Just in case.
“We’re hoping they’re going to start the same lineup,” said Konopka.
But Devils right-winger Cam Janssen, one of the participants in Monday’s fights, said the Devils weren’t going to be out to “start a sideshow.”
“We just want to come in and steal two points,” he said.
More scoring chances
Not only would MacLean like to see his power play improve, he’d also like to see his team get more even-strength scoring chances.
“Our average has been OK,” he said. “We’d like to generate a little bit more, but in saying that everybody is knuckling down a little bit.
“We’re still generating 10-plus scoring chances a game. We’d like to generate more, but the big thing for us is that if the power play can contribute, that can open up the game more than five-on-five.”
Not looking ahead
No matter how hard anyone tries, MacLean won’t look ahead to the end of the regular season and a potential first-round opponent.
When the team gets there will be soon enough to start thinking about that.
“We’re just real glad that we’re in the race, and we’re going to take every game as important and not try to speculate where we’re going to be if we don’t do this or we don’t do that,” he said. “We just want to make sure that we’re prepared everyday to do our jobs, and we’ll take where we finish where we finish.”

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