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Spezza could be a fourth-liner tonight

Nashville Predators v Dallas Stars

DALLAS, TEXAS - APRIL 09: Jason Spezza #90 of the Dallas Stars celebrates his hat trick against the Nashville Predators in the third period at American Airlines Center on April 9, 2016 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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Jason Spezza logged just 11:04 of ice time in Friday’s 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks, and the veteran Stars forward may find himself on the fourth line tonight in St. Louis.

“He’s really struggled the past couple games, so the ice time went down,” Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said, per team beat writer Mark Stepneski.

Ruff added that Spezza “needs to make better [puck] decisions.” In 15 games, the 33-year-old is a team-worst minus-11, with four goals and four assists.

At yesterday’s practice, Spezza was on a fourth line centered by Adam Cracknell, with Curtis McKenzie on the other wing. Suffice to say, that’s a big cap hit ($7.5 million) to be skating in the bottom six.

But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, given it’s been such a turbulent start for the Stars. It’s not just the goaltending that’s been poor; the team as a whole has not performed like it did last season.

Injuries have certainly been a factor -- Spezza himself missed seven games with a lower-body injury -- but the Stars also lost defensemen Alex Goligoski and Jason Demers to free agency, and forward Valeri Nichushkin to the KHL.

After 23 games, the Stars are a modest 9-8-5, outside the playoff picture in the Western Conference, with a score-adjusted Corsi that ranks 25th in the league.

Last season, their score-adjusted Corsi finished fourth and they won the Central Division.

“It’s hard to make up points down the stretch. We’ve seen that. So the game in November is just as important as the game in March,” Spezza told the Dallas Morning News recently. “That’s why you see so much intensity now, because every game is so important. If you lose two in a row in this league, you’re desperate because you can change five places in the standings. While it’s not that important to get a top seed, there still is the desire there to win every game. You have to have that.”