OTTAWA – From the moment Bobby Ryan was traded to Ottawa, fans of the Senators quickly started imagining how good he would look on a line beside Jason Spezza.
The pair skated alongside Milan Michalek for the team’s first day of on-ice training and already the buzz is building as to what the trio could accomplish. All three players offer a different skill set as Michalek has great speed, Spezza has great vision and Ryan can finish.
The question will be whether they can put all the pieces together.
“I think there’s the makings of a very good line and a line that can contend with anybody,” said Ryan. “We’re all pretty crafty with the puck so if things click right away it could be a very dangerous line and you hope it does.”
Ryan, 26, is a four-time thirty-goal scorer and offers Spezza a bona fide offensive right-winger for the first time since Dany Heatley, who had back-to-back 50-goal seasons playing with Spezza.
Spezza said it will take time to get used to each other on the ice.
“There’s no real rhyme or reason why you have chemistry with a guy other than you just feel each other out, you learn where each other goes and it’s not something that can really be forced either,” said Spezza. “I think the more we play together, the more familiar we’ll get and we’ll figure out if our games mesh well.”
The 30-year-old Spezza played just five games last season before requiring back surgery for a herniated disc. He managed to return and play in three playoff games, but it was clear at the time that he was nowhere near fully recovered.
After the playoffs it was disclosed that Spezza had torn the meniscus in his knee late in his rehab process, so he also had his knee scoped over the summer.
“I’m definitely 100 per cent right now, I feel really good,” said Spezza. “I had a good off-season and it was nice to have a full summer of training and hopefully I can reap the rewards of it.”
Spezza is confident his back won’t be a recurring issue, but says he will definitely be giving it greater attention.
“You hope it’s done, but you’re never out of the woods with a back injury. It’s something I’m going to have to stay on and make sure I keep up the regular routine. I just have to be cognizant of my days off and taking rest when I need it, but for the most part I don’t anticipate too many issues.”
Michalek missed 25 games last season with a knee injury that bothered him throughout the year. Instead of surgery, Michalek opted for biologic treatment by German-based doctor Peter Wehling.
The 28-year-old is impressed with the results so far.
“I’ve been skating hard for a month and there’s no problems,” said Michalek. “It’s holding up good so hopefully it stays like this.”
Michalek said if he remains on a line with Spezza and Ryan, he won’t try to do anything special.
“I’ll just use my speed and go to the net and create some havoc in front of the net and help out defensively,” he said.
Ryan is well aware of the high expectations for the line, but isn’t dwelling on it.
“I think it will be in the back of my mind for a little while,” he said. “Once you get out there you forget about those things and it just becomes a game and you’re working with your teammates. I’ll try to step away from it when I leave the rink as best I can and take it for what it’s worth.”
Ryan added he would likely be looking for that first goal early on just to eliminate some of the mental pressure.
“It’s important, you need to do it,” he said. “I won’t get frustrated if it doesn’t happen early. I’ll start to think about it and it will mount a little bit, but to get it out of the way and then take that sigh of relief and move forward is important.”
While he held off from making any bold predictions, Ryan admitted that ideally he would find himself in the 35-goal range while being a plus player this season.
With goal scorers on either side, Spezza admitted he might have to be a little selfish at times.
“I don’t think I’ve played a year of hockey where the coaches haven’t been on me to shoot the puck more,” said Spezza. “It’s already been mentioned to me and we’ve only been on the ice an hour and a half…I’m a centreman, I’m a distributor. It’s how I play the game.”
Notes: Defenceman Jared Cowen remains unsigned and is not at camp. … Defenceman Patrick Wiercioch turned 23 Thursday.