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Spezza 'just a piece' to Stars' championship puzzle

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- Jason Spezza has only been a member of the Dallas Stars organization for about a week, but the veteran center already feels he will be a great fit with his new employer.

"I'm just a piece to the puzzle," Spezza said Monday morning during his introductory press conference at American Airlines Center. "You have to be willing to be that in order to win in this League. I think it's a great fit, and to have the young group and some of the young stars they have, you don't see that very often and you hope to kind of grow with the group."

Jason Spezza
Center - DAL
GOALS: 23 | ASST: 43 | PTS: 66
SOG: 223 | +/-: -26
Spezza, 31, was acquired last Tuesday in a trade with the Ottawa Senators that sent young forwards Alex Chiasson, Nicholas Paul and Alexander Guptill to Ottawa for Spezza and forward Ludwig Karlsson.

In 75 regular-season games with Ottawa last season, Spezza scored 23 goals and 66 points. For his 11-year NHL career, he has 251 goals and 687 points in 686 games. Spezza served as Senators captain last season, but said wearing a letter on his jersey in Dallas was not imperative.

"I think if you're a leader, you lead, and if the team needs you to wear a letter, you wear a letter. But I think naturally, I think I'm a leader and you don't need a letter on your jersey to lead," Spezza said.

The seasoned center will wear No. 90 with the Stars; he wore No. 19 during his time with the Senators, but it's another change he welcomes.

"I've always had good luck with nines. Nineteen is retired [Bill Masterton] and obviously, 9 is retired [Mike Modano]. [Tyler] Seguin's 91, so I thought I'd try No. 90. It's a new spot and new number for me and hopefully it kind of sticks to be a lucky number for me," Spezza said.

With Seguin centering the Stars' top line alongside captain Jamie Benn, from the moment Spezza was acquired the prevailing thought was he would center Dallas' second line. However, general manager Jim Nill doesn't think that will automatically be the case.

"I think it's a 1A and 1B. Jason Spezza is in the prime of his career. He's an elite player. Having Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza out there as your two centermen coming out the door, when we go on the road, other teams are going to have a tough time matching up against us," Nill said.

Right after the trade, Spezza talked about it being a tough decision for him to leave Ottawa, a place where he had spent his first 11 NHL seasons. But with winning a Stanley Cup about the only bullet point missing from his already impressive hockey resume, he wanted to join an organization he felt had a great chance at a title, a big reason why he wanted to come to Dallas.

"I think it's paramount to be in an organization that's committed to winning. I think that word gets around the League fast when a team has made a decision to try to be a team that tries to compete every year and win," Spezza said. "As a player, that's all you want, is that opportunity to give yourself a chance to win."

Spezza discussed how much he is looking forward to skating alongside such young talents as Benn and Seguin. But he's also eager to renew his relationship with Stars coach Lindy Ruff, who he played for during the 2009 IIHF World Championship with Canada.

"He's a guy that's been around the game a long time and has seen a lot of things, so I would imagine he has a lot of his own views on how to play the game and I'm looking forward to getting a chance to kind of work with him," Spezza said. "I've heard nothing but good things [about him], and also, to last in the game as long as he has, he's obviously a very smart hockey man."

With one year remaining on his current contract, signing Spezza to an extension is another storyline and a topic Nill addressed for his newest center.

"I've spoken to Jason's agent. We're going to let Jason get settled in here first," Nill said. "I don't think it's going to be an issue. I just want him to get his family in here, get settled and then we'll move forward from there."

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