Jason Spezza wasn’t much of a factor in a victory over the Ottawa Senators earlier this month, though there should be some extra incentive for the Dallas Stars center to contribute more against his former team Thursday night.
Returning to Ottawa for the first time since being traded over the summer, Spezza likely won’t let a broken nose keep him from trying to help the Stars earn a seventh consecutive victory over the Senators.
Spezza, who recorded 251 goals and 436 assists while spending his first 11 seasons with Ottawa, was held without a point for the only time in eight games and had no shots for just the fourth time all season in a 5-4 home victory Jan. 13 – the first meeting since the Senators dealt him to Dallas on July 1.
The 31-year-old admitted it felt strange to face his former team that night, and it could be even tougher doing so in Ottawa.
"It’s been a date that’s been circled on my calendar," Spezza said. "It’s nice to have it here and get it over with (Thursday)."
Though Spezza trails only Daniel Alfredsson in goals, assists and points in Senators history and helped lead the franchise to its only Stanley Cup finals appearance in 2007, his request for a trade over the summer likely remains a sore point for some Ottawa fans.
"I think fans feel 50-50 about a player’s departure," Ottawa All-Star and former Spezza teammate Bobby Ryan said. "He’ll get his cheers and get his jeers as well. It’s probably going to be an emotional night for him."
Spezza, who has eight goals and 27 assists, is expected to be in the lineup after he broke his nose while being hit into the end boards by Montreal’s Alexei Emelin during the second period of Tuesday’s 3-2 defeat.
"I broke my nose but I knew I was going to be back," Spezza, who has recorded an assist in five straight games, told the Stars’ official website.
While Spezza’s homecoming is a significant aspect to this matchup, he would rather focus on trying to help the Stars avoid a third straight loss.
"We’ve got to find a way to win these games," said Spezza, who signed a four-year extension worth a reported $30 million in November. "We need to get points this time of year."
Sitting 11th in the Western Conference and six points behind Calgary for the final wild-card spot, Dallas might be facing the ideal opponent to begin a positive run.
The Stars have totaled 22 goals during their six-game winning streak over the Senators and are in the midst of a 3-0-2 stretch at Ottawa.
Ales Hemsky, who had four goals with 13 assists in 20 games after being traded to Ottawa last season, recorded one of each against the Senators (19-18-9) this month. However, he has one point in five games since.
Teammate Tyler Seguin is among the NHL goal leaders with 28, but has one in his last 17 games versus Ottawa.
Senators winger Alex Chiasson, who was part of the Spezza trade, had an assist in the first meeting with the Stars.
Ryan had two of his 21 assists in that game and recorded the same amount in a 4-3 home victory last Wednesday in Ottawa’s most recent contest.
On the outside of playoff position in the East, the Senators are trying to win back-to-back games for the first time since Dec. 29-Jan. 3. They haven’t done so at home since Nov. 4-6.
"There’s no game (that isn’t) important for us from here on out," Ryan said.