Dallas Stars

Jason Spezza on Stars’ slow start, first-year HC Jim Montgomery, bouncing back in 2018

Dallas Stars center Jason Spezza (90) has his shot stopped by New Jersey Devils goaltender Keith Kinkaid in the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, in Newark, NJ.
Dallas Stars center Jason Spezza (90) has his shot stopped by New Jersey Devils goaltender Keith Kinkaid in the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, in Newark, NJ. AP Photo

The Stars are in a bit of a rut.

The team has lost three straight games. During that stretch, the Senators, Devils and Wild scored a combined 10 goals to the Stars’ 2.

Forward Jason Spezza notched one of those goals in his team’s 3-1 loss to the Wild on Friday night. After the game, Stars head coach Jim Montgomery called Spezza, along with rookie defenseman Miro Heiskanen, his two best players on the ice that evening.

Spezza will carry the second-highest cap hit on the team ($7.5 million), per Spotrac.com, for the second season in a row. And last year, he only posted 26 points in 78 games.

But the 15-year veteran is off to a strong start this season. In seven games, he’s recorded 5 points (1 goal, 4 assists). That point total is the fifth highest on the team thus far.

After a hard practice at the team’s rink in Euless on Saturday, the veteran spoke to reporters about his strong start to this season, his take on his first-year head coach and the team’s up-and-down start.

This interview was edited and condensed for space.

On the first-year head coach Jim Montgomery and the hard practice last Saturday

I love what he’s done. He’s pushed us. I think we would’ve practiced like that whether we won or we lost. But there was some extra fire at practice today. He’s demanding of us to raise our expectation of what we are.

It’s his team and he’s the boss. He knows what to do. He’s won at all his levels. I don’t feel like he’s a rookie coach you need to talk to. It’s best to let him do what he’s doing because everything is well thought-out. He’s not a guy that’s flying by the seat of his pants.

How are things going for you after last year’s disappointing season?

I feel good. I’ve worked hard. Last year I didn’t like the way things went. I expect more of myself and I think my game is coming around.

Do you think about maybe being a step slower and the league is getting faster?

I’ve never been fast. It’s never worried me, being a step slower than everyone. That was not my problem last year. (It) was thinking too much and playing outside of my game. I think that I just have to work hard at getting back to what I do well, (which is) creating. It’s been good, it’s been what I expected. And I think I have more to give, too.

You seemed to have an emotional reaction to your goal against the Wild?

I think if I score and we’re up 4-1, I’m probably not as intense about it. It’s nice to get the first goal, but it was more situational to the game. We had that second period and didn’t get rewarded for it. It was nice to get one on the first shift (in the third).

What’s your role on the team in not getting too frustrated, (like) when you (the team) score just two goals in three games?

It’s frustrating. But frustration can be seen in different ways. For me it’s important to push. Sometimes in trying not to be frustrated, you try to be too calm at times, at times. Frustration is a natural emotion in sports. I think I’m best when I’m playing with emotion and engaged in the game... it’s a bit of finding what’s good for you and the team.

On Jim Montgomery’s new, up-tempo style

We held leads differently with Hitch last year than we have with Monty. With Monty, it’s push, push, push, all the time. You have to trust all the guys on the ice that everyone is thinking the same way. And maybe we resort back to old habits when we get the lead. Because 18 minutes to hold onto a one-goal lead is a long time. He knows that and he’s going to teach it (his style) to us and we’re going to get better at it.

The Stars will take the ice again on Tuesday night when the Los Angeles Kings visit Dallas.

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