You could never tell from the scoresheet that the Ottawa Senators were about to lose Jason Spezza to back surgery – perhaps for the rest of this shrunken season.
Ottawa’s first-line centre – fourth in NHL scoring last season with 84 points – logged an impressive 21 minutes and one second in Sunday’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
He assisted on Ottawa’s only goal in regulation. He scored in the shootout, though the win went to Pittsburgh when all three Pittsburgh shooters (James Neal, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin) scored on Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson.
Spezza’s average shift was 43 seconds, long for a forward. He took five shots, won 14 of 25 faceoffs and even picked up a penalty for hooking.
And somewhere along the way he tweaked his already-troublesome back.
On Thursday, general manager Bryan Murray announced that Spezza will undergo surgery in Toronto on Friday.
“It’s just the best thing to do at this point,” Murray told the assembled media.
The 29-year-old centre is already in Toronto – he is from Mississauga – having gone earlier in the week for a medical evaluation.
Murray said that Spezza would rest for a week following the surgery and then begin rehabilitation, with the presumed target of two months for full recovery.
The hope is to have the star centre back before the end of the season. The Senators are well positioned early on in the season to make the playoffs, currently tied with Boston Bruins at the top of the eastern conference with 11 points (though Boston has played one fewer game).
Murray stated that the team would replace Spezza from within, if possible. However, the two most likely candidates in the farm system, Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman of the AHL Binghamton Senators, are both out with their own injuries.
In the two games that the Senators have played since Spezza was injured, Ottawa has gone unbeaten, defeating the Washington Capitals 3-2 on Tuesday and downing the Montreal Canadiens 5-1 Wednesday.
The team left Ottawa Thursday for a Friday match against the Carolina Hurricanes and will have a rematch with the Canadiens in Montreal on Sunday afternoon.