Dallas Stars center Martin Hanzal's season is over.
GM Jim Nill announced Friday that Hanzal would undergo season-ending back surgery in the next few days with an expected recovery time of 6-7 months.
Nill said the injury occurred in late November and that Hanzal had three injections to help him play through the pain, but it got to a point where Hanzal couldn't play anymore. So, the team opted for the surgery, which will be spinal fusion surgery. Nill said he doesn't expect the injury and procedure to be career-threatening.
"As long as the surgery goes well, and we are anticipating it will, there should be no problem," Nill said. "But it is a major surgery. We'll wait and see. Right now, the recovery time is 6-7 months, and we're anticipating he'll be back then."
Video: Nill updates Martin Hanzal's status
Hanzal was one of the Stars' key offseason acquisitions, signing a three-year, $14.25 million contract on the first day of free agency on July 1. But it's been a rough season for Hanzal, who missed almost all of training camp and the preseason due to an ankle injury and then 29 games of the regular season with a variety of injuries, including the back.
"I don't know if disappointing is the word. It's part of the business, part of the game," Nill said. "We're going to miss him, but it is an opportunity for someone else. This is part of the game. You are going to have injuries, and you've got to overcome these. We've seen Radek Faksa step up and Jason Dickinson is going to get a chance. It's an opportunity for someone else."
Hanzal played 38 games this season, recording 10 points (five goals, five assists) while playing on both sides of special teams.
"A couple weeks ago, we got on with life without him. There was in and out (of the lineup)," said Stars coach Ken Hitchcock. "When he was in he was a very good player for us, so you are always hoping that something is going to happen that he's going to be okay because we are a different team with him in the lineup … But a couple weeks ago we started to get on with business because we started to realize this was more serious than we thought."
Morning Skate: Faksa, Lindell return
Stars center Radek Faksa and Esa Lindell both will return to the lineup tonight when the Stars take on Anaheim at American Airlines Center after missing the past two games. Faksa was out with a foot injury, and Lindell was sick.
"Both guys are big parts of the team so getting them back is going to do nothing but help us," said Stars coach Ken Hitchcock.
Faksa is expected to center Jamie Benn and Tyler Pitlick tonight. Lindell will be back in his usual spot on a defense pair with John Klingberg.
With Faksa and Lindell returning, Gemel Smith is the expected scratch at forward, and Julius Honka is expected to sit out on defense.
Kari Lehtonen will get the start in goal.
The Stars come into tonight's game in a bit of an offensive drought. They have scored just 20 goals over the last 11 games (1.82 goals per game) and have been shutout three times during that stretch. The power play isn't helping. The Stars have scored just four power-play goals over the last 13 games.
"The special teams have to be a lot better and more consistent," said Stars defenseman John Klingberg. "We need to play good five-on-five, too. I feel like we're throwing the puck away. We're not playing with possession enough. We don't win enough one-on-one battles, and we are a little bit too slow through the neutral zone to not get deep in the zone and then we're just standing still and have to chase the puck instead. We need to create more speed and keep more puck possession."
The Stars (37-24-6) come into tonight's game three points behind Minnesota for third place in the Central Division and two points ahead of the ninth-place spot in the Western Conference which is currently held by Colorado.
The Ducks (34-22-12) had a three-game winning streak snapped with a 4-2 loss at Nashville on Thursday night. John Gibson was in goal last night for Anaheim, so there is a good chance Ryan Miller gets the start tonight. Miller stopped 41 shots in a 2-0 shutout of the Stars in Anaheim on Feb. 21. The Ducks are in third place in the Pacific Division, one point behind second-place San Jose and one point ahead of fourth-place Los Angeles which holds the second wild-card spot in the West.
Who: Anaheim Ducks at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Stars Projected Lineup
Mattias Janmark - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Jamie Benn - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Antoine Roussel - Jason Spezza - Remi Elie
Devin Shore - Jason Dickinson - Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Greg Pateryn
Marc Methot - Stephen Johns
Scratched: Gemel Smith, Julius Honka
Injured: Ben Bishop (knee), Martin Hanzal (back)
Ducks Projected Lineup
Rickard Rakell - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano - Ryan Kesler - Jakob Silfverberg
Nick Ritchie - Adam Henrique - Ondrej Kase
Chris Kelly - Derek Grant - Jason Chimera
Cam Fowler - Brandon Montour
Hampus Lindholm - Kevin Bieksa
Francois Beauchemin - Josh Manson
Scratched: Marcus Pettersson, J.T. Brown, Antoine Vermette
Injured: Patrick Eaves (illness)
This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow him on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.