Jason Spezza was the center of attention in Ottawa on Wednesday. Spezza and the Stars are in town to take on the Senators in what will be the Dallas center’s first game in Ottawa since he was traded to Dallas over the summer.
“It felt to be good back on the ice. This day has been circled on my calendar, so it’s nice to have it now and to get it over with tomorrow,” Spezza said. “It didn’t feel different. It brought back some memories, but tomorrow is when it will be different being on the other side.”
This is the second time this month that Spezza has faced his former team. The Senators were in Dallas on Jan. 13, marking the first time that Spezza played against Ottawa since the Stars acquired him and forward Ludwig Karlsson for right wing Alex Chiasson, prospects Nick Paul and Alex Guptill and a second-round pick in 2015.
That was a chance to see some old teammates and faceoff against them for the first time. Thursday will be different since it will be in Ottawa, where he played for 11 seasons. This time he’ll be reuniting with Ottawa fans.
“I don’t know [what to expect],” Spezza said. “Fans are passionate. I hope I am remembered as giving my all and having some success here. I expect them to support the team, too. They’ve always supported the club. I hope they appreciate that I gave everything while I was here and did all I could do to try to help us win.”
Ottawa players said they hope it will be a warm reception for Spezza, a former captain in Ottawa, and one of the best players in franchise history.
“I hope it’s a good one,” Senators center Kyle Turris told the Ottawa Sun. “He has done so much for this organization, the team and the community. I feel like he’s been a big part of the success they’ve had here, making it to the Stanley Cup final and all that. Hopefully, they welcome him with a warm reception.”
“I figure it will probably be a lot like Alfie [former Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson], where they show a video and he’ll get a standing ovation, as he should,” Ottawa forward Bobby Ryan told the Sun. “And then I think they’ll probably cheer for us and boo him the rest of the way. Fans feel 50/50 about players’ departures in every category. I’m sure he’ll get his cheers, and he’ll get his jeers as well. It’s probably going to be an emotional night for him.”
The Stars went through several of these homecomings last year with Lindy Ruff (Buffalo), Jim Nill (Detroit), Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley (Boston) and Shawn Horcoff (Edmonton). It’s nothing new for the team.
[Spezza] is a professional, and we went through a few of these last year,” Ruff said. “I think he’ll have mixed emotions, obviously. Big moments in his career were here. You live it and get through it. I don’t think it will be a disruption.”
Spezza said with one game against the Senators under his belt, and more than a half a season with the Stars makes his return a little bit easier.
“It’s far enough into the season where it’s less of a shock for me,” Spezza said. “I’m a Dallas Star now. I’ve gotten comfortable here. But it’s weird going back.”
“That was a gutsy effort for him to come back. That was a tough hit. For him to come back that quickly, I was impressed. He’s really settled in and played some good hockey for us these past six or seven weeks. He’s comfortable with how we need to play. That was a sign that he wanted to be out there and wanted to make a difference. “
Stars coach Lindy Ruff on Jason Spezza returning after suffering a broken nose in Tuesday’s game in Montreal
Practice notes: Cole, Ritchie questionable for Thursday
*Erik Cole and Brett Ritchie, who both missed Tuesday’s game with injuries, practiced Wednesday and are questionable for Thursday’s game against Ottawa.
*Vernon Fiddler, who took a puck off the foot in the third period of Tuesday’s game and hobbled to the bench, practiced Wednesday and appeared to be fine.
*The Stars assigned defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka to Texas of the AHL on Wednesday.
This story was not subject to the 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 Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.