Jason Spezza has taken a lot of criticism at times in Ottawa, including earlier this season. Since head coach Craig Hartsburg put Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson back with on his wings, however, Spezza has scored five goals and the Senators have 10 of a possible 14 points.
In addition to scoring the deciding goal in a shootout, Spezza has been credited with Ottawa's last three-game winning goals. And the newfound success has not been lost on Hartburg, who credits Spezza for improving his work ethic and competitiveness.
"Players don't like to admit they're working harder and playing harder, but I think that's a key for any player," Hartsburg said on Monday. "He's such a skilled guy and a creative player that we want him to have the puck all the time. But in this game, in this day and age, you have to go get the puck. You have to compete to get it, and I think that's what Jason is doing more. Obviously, playing with those two guys, there is some offensive chemistry, but Jason, right now the way he is playing he could play with anybody and play well.. He's moving his feet more, he's competing.."
Spezza struggled during the month of November, scoring just two goals and adding three asists for five points in 12 games. But he scored a hat-trick in Saturday's win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, which could be a sign that things are turning around for the slick centre.
"There's obviously a lot of pressure on all the great players when they don't play well and they don't produce. And Jason, I think he felt it as much as anybody. Now I see a guy that's doing things naturally and again, that work, that energy in his game is very positive."
For his part, Spezza says he is feeling more comfortable under a new system introduced by a new head coach in Hartsburg.
"We're playing a little bit of a different style than we have in the past, so you've got to make some adjustments as a player and I'm no different than anybody else. I've had to make some adjustments and I'm starting to figure it out better.. We're playing better as a group and that always makes it better for individuals..
But he couldn't dismiss the possible superstitious effect of his new facial hair.
"The moustache seems to be helping.. It's not leaving anytime soon."
Files from TSN Resporter Brent Wallace were used in this report.