Mired in worst offensive season of career, Spezza made healthy scratch by Stars


Jason Spezza has had a pretty stellar NHL career over the past 15 years. The 2017-18 season, however, has not been one of best.

With the veteran center currently mired in a 14-game goal drought the Stars announced on Monday afternoon that Spezza will be a healthy scratch for Monday afternoon’s game against the Boston Bruins.

“Coach’s decision” was the reason given by the Stars.

He has just one assist in his past seven games and only five assists during the current goal drought.

Spezza has shown some signs of slowing down offensively over the past few seasons but he still remained a highly productive player that was, at the very least, a lock for at least 60 points over 82 games. That is still first-line production in the NHL.

That offensive production has completely fallen off of a cliff this year.

Entering play on Monday he had just five goals and 11 assists in the Stars’ first 44 games, a pace that would only give him nine goals and 29 total points in a full season. That would be by far the worst offensive output of his career. The only times in his career he failed to record at least 50 points were the 2002-03 season (when he had 21 points in 33 games as a 19-year-old) and the 2012-13 season when he was limited to only five games (he had five points in those five games).

It’s not a surprise that Spezza isn’t producing points the way he did a few years ago for no other reason than he’s 34 years old. It’s only natural to expect a slow down. But the way his production has almost entirely disappeared is the surprising thing. His ice-time has been reduced significantly this season, but there are still some underlying signs that he is doing some thing well enough to warrant playing time. When he has been on the ice during 5-on-5 play the Stars are outscoring their opponents by a 20-14 margin and he is one of their best possession players with a 56.6 Corsi percentage.

There is still some value there and it should at least provide some optimism that maybe he can turn things around this season and that his skills have not completely diminished.

General manager Jim Nill said on Monday that he expects Spezza to be back in the lineup on Tuesday when the Stars visit the Detroit Red Wings.

“I think he knows he can be better too and we need more from him,” said Nill, via Scott Burnside of Stars.com. “I think we got a really good thing going here and he’s a big part of it, he’s one of our leaders and we want him at his best,”

Spezza still has one year remaining on his contract that pays him $7.5 million per season.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

caufield surgery
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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

matty beniers
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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.