Jason Brough

DALLAS, TEXAS - APRIL 09:  Jason Spezza #90 of the Dallas Stars celebrates his hat trick against the Nashville Predators in the third period at American Airlines Center on April 9, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Spezza could be a fourth-liner tonight

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Jason Spezza logged just 11:04 of ice time in Friday’s 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks, and the veteran Stars forward may find himself on the fourth line tonight in St. Louis.

“He’s really struggled the past couple games, so the ice time went down,” Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said, per team beat writer Mark Stepneski.

Ruff added that Spezza “needs to make better [puck] decisions.” In 15 games, the 33-year-old is a team-worst minus-11, with four goals and four assists.

At yesterday’s practice, Spezza was on a fourth line centered by Adam Cracknell, with Curtis McKenzie on the other wing. Suffice to say, that’s a big cap hit ($7.5 million) to be skating in the bottom six.

But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, given it’s been such a turbulent start for the Stars. It’s not just the goaltending that’s been poor; the team as a whole has not performed like it did last season.

Injuries have certainly been a factor — Spezza himself missed seven games with a lower-body injury — but the Stars also lost defensemen Alex Goligoski and Jason Demers to free agency, and forward Valeri Nichushkin to the KHL.

After 23 games, the Stars are a modest 9-8-5, outside the playoff picture in the Western Conference, with a score-adjusted Corsi that ranks 25th in the league.

Last season, their score-adjusted Corsi finished fourth and they won the Central Division.

“It’s hard to make up points down the stretch. We’ve seen that. So the game in November is just as important as the game in March,” Spezza told the Dallas Morning News recently. “That’s why you see so much intensity now, because every game is so important. If you lose two in a row in this league, you’re desperate because you can change five places in the standings. While it’s not that important to get a top seed, there still is the desire there to win every game. You have to have that.”

Don’t tell Torts, but the Jackets’ Corsi has been really good lately

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 17:  Head coach John Tortorella of the Columbus Blue Jackets reacts on the bench during the second period of the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on December 17, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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John Tortorella may not have any time for “the Corsi and the Fenwick,” but his Columbus Blue Jackets are starting to show well in those possession stats. And wouldn’t you know it? Their record has been pretty good, too.

In the Jackets’ last 12 games — starting with that 10-0 win over Montreal on Nov. 4 — they have the NHL’s eighth-highest score-adjusted Corsi, per Puck On Net. Columbus is 7-2-3 over that stretch and currently occupies the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

On Saturday, the Jackets fell 2-1 in the shootout at Florida, but they outshot the Panthers, 37-23.

Individually, Brandon Saad leads the Jackets with a 56.2 percent Corsi. He scored the tying goal in Florida, his sixth goal of the season. Nick Foligno (53.4%) and rookie d-man Zach Werenski (52.9%) have also fared well in the Corsi department.

Meanwhile, Sergei Bobrovksy (11-5-2, .929) has been very good in goal all season, but he’s had to do far less work of late. In his last six starts, he’s averaged just 23.5 shots against. That compares to his first six starts, when it was 32.8.

Read more: Werenski learning the rigors of an NHL schedule

Tortorella was pleased with how his team performed on Saturday.

“To hang in there, stick in there in the third period and find a way to score a goal, get a point, we’ll go home feeling pretty good about ourselves the way we grinded away here in a busy week,” Tortorella told reporters.

It’s going to get even busier soon. The Jackets host Tampa Bay Tuesday. After that, it’s 14 games in the month of December, starting Thursday in Colorado.

Senators ‘can’t ask for better’ with shutout win at MSG

Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson (41) makes a save on a shot by New York Rangers' Jesper Fast (19) as Senators' Chris Wideman (6) helps out during the first period of an NHL hockey game in New York, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

NEW YORK (AP) Despite playing less than 24 hours before, Craig Anderson wanted to be in net when the Ottawa Senators took on the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

The goalie got his wish and made 33 saves in a 2-0 shutout victory Sunday night. Anderson is 7-1-1 in nine regular-season starts at Madison Square Garden.

“It’s New York man,” Anderson said. “It’s one of those buildings there’s a lot of history. Great team over there and it’s one of those things you just get up for. The historic buildings who knows how long they’ll be around for. You’re fortunate enough to be a part of it and that’s kind of the way I address that mentally.”

Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Mark Stone scored in the second period.

Ottawa improved to 6-3 in the road. It also improved to 3-0 in the second night of back-to-back sets.

“To have to play here back to back on the road and get a team that’s been firing from all cylinders,” Senators coach Guy Boucher said. “One of the best offensive teams in the league and to get a shutout you can’t ask for better.”

Pageau scored 1:54 into the second. Zach Smith worked the puck behind the Rangers’ net to Tom Pyatt, who drew in two defenders and fed Pageau in front of the net for his third goal of the season.

“It was a really nice play by (Smith) and Pyatt nice pass,” Pageau said. “I was just trying to put it on net and that was in our game plan. Go in the blue paint and try to put pucks on net. So that’s what I tried to do.”

The Senators scored again on a power play. Stone fired a wrist shot from inside the faceoff circle for his sixth goal of the season.

Rangers goalie Antti Raanta made 18 saves in his first loss of the season. He was making his first start since Nov. 21 against Pittsburgh.

The Rangers were 8-0-1 at home through their first nine games before going 0-3-1 in their last four games at Madison Square Garden.

New York’s power play struggled against the Senators, going 0 for 4. The Senators were 1 for 3.

“We had a couple power plays with some open nets and when a team is playing that good defensively,” Derek Stepan said. “They didn’t make a single mistake – you have to execute perfectly all the way to your dumps. We just were a little off and they defended extremely well and that’s the story tonight.”

Ottawa forward Derick Brassard played against the Rangers for the first time since he was traded over the summer. New York sent Brassard to Ottawa on July 18 for Mika Zibanejad and a draft pick.

“I’m really thankful for the fans here and for appreciating my work here the last four years,” Brassard said.

Bruins recall Khudobin, need him to be much better

TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 6:  Anton Khudobin #35 of the Boston Bruins stretches in the warm-up prior to playing against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 6, 2013 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Bruins defeated the Maple Leafs 5-2 to take a 2-1 series lead. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

The Boston Bruins have recalled goalie Anton Khudobin from his AHL conditioning assignment. He’ll be available to play tonight at TD Garden, where the Bruins will host the Calgary Flames.

It remains to be seen who will get the start in Boston’s net. Tuukka Rask played last night in Ottawa, stopping 23 of 26 shots in a 3-1 loss. If Rask goes again tonight, it will be his third start in four days. He also played Tuesday against St. Louis.

Unfortunately for the Bruins, Khudobin’s AHL stint was not all that encouraging, as he allowed 11 goals in three games for Providence, with an .874 save percentage. Prior to the assignment, he’d started twice for the NHL club, losing both while allowing eight goals and compiling an .849 save percentage.

Read more: Khudobin “really happy” to be back in Boston

The Bruins would obviously like Khudobin to be much better. They signed the 30-year-old to a two-year, $2.4 million contract in free agency, with the expectation he would prove superior to Jonas Gustavsson in the backup role.

The Bruins have already used four different starting goalies this season. One of the four, Zane McIntyre, has been assigned to the ECHL. The other, Malcolm Subban, remains in the AHL.

Turnovers doom the Flyers in Black Friday loss to Rangers


A pair of turnovers cost the Philadelphia Flyers this afternoon in their Thanksgiving Showdown against the New York Rangers, who escaped Wells Fargo Center with a 3-2 win.

The Rangers opened the scoring at 13:16 of the first period, after Philadelphia’s Scott Laughton tried to make a pass behind his net, only to have it picked off by J.T. MillerMiller then fed it in front to Derek Stepan, who ripped a one-timer past Steve Mason.

Matt Puempel, making his Rangers debut, scored less than two minutes later, converting a brilliant cross-ice feed from Jimmy Vesey.

Then, midway through the second period, it was 3-0, after an errant pass by Mark Streit led to a Kevin Hayes goal.

The first period was a boisterous affair, with a couple of fights (see: here and here) between the division rivals. Henrik Lundqvist was busy in the Rangers’ net, making a number of key saves before Stepan’s goal.

The Flyers made things interesting with third-period goals from Chris VandeVelde and Shayne Gostisbehere. But they couldn’t beat Lundqvist for a third time; he would finish with 40 saves.

All in all, it was a great bounce-back result for the Rangers (15-6-1), who got blasted, 6-1, by Pittsburgh on Wednesday at MSG.

As for the Flyers (9-10-3), they’ve now lost two straight, with just three wins in their last 10.