Jason Spezza returns tonight for the first time since December 26th, making his 2011 debut against the New York Islanders. The Ottawa Senators currently sit only three points above the Isles with 42 points.
Both teams continue to struggle this season with no chance of making the playoffs; the Isles won three of their last 10 with the Sens only winning one game over that span.
In other words, in a meaningless game the returning Spezza should be our main focus. However, how much impact will he make?
Spezza was out with a right shoulder injury, which might effect his stickhandling and shot should he not be back to 100 percent. Considering the Sens took it easy on their star and let him recover slowly he might be pretty close to full strength.
Last season Spezza lined up primarily with Peter Regin, Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson– all of which still play on the team. His combined statistics with some form of those linemates looked decent with 14 points over his first 20 games before regressing in December with only six points in 12 games with a minus-5 rating.
Regardless, this former 2nd overall pick holds a massive amount of talent as shown by his powerful second half last year. From January ’10 to April the 27-year-old put together 38 points over the final 30 games he played, pushing the Senators into a strong playoff seeding and further cementing his place as the main scoring threat on the Sens. In other words, if Spezza plays well so does the team; Spezza has been hurt which explains their pitiful record without him.
As you can see from the above table, the Sens look pretty poor regardless of Spezza in the lineup, however they are drastically better with him. Despite poor goaltending and inconsistent scoring from nearly every veteran on the team there is no reason to believe Spezza can’t come near a point-per-game pace centering the top line.
His current fantasy owners should be pretty frustrated by his recent output. In keeper/dynasty formats this year marks the third straight where Spezza declined/will decline in points so every owner of the Ontario native probably has had enough with his enigmatic tendency. You might be able to pry Spezza away from that owner for a small price, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to propose a fair deal.
Spezza returns tonight centering the top line of Alfredsson and Nick Foligno, be sure he is in your lineup and keep a watchful eye on how he fares.