NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Pain free and skating better than ever, Jason Spezza is making a charge at the NHL scoring lead.
With his two goals in Tuesday's 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings, Spezza extended his consecutive point scoring streak to 10 games. During that stretch, he has eight goals and seven assists.
He now has 40 points (17 goals, 23 assists) on the season which, heading into last night's action, was good for seventh place in the league scoring race.
Jaromir Jagr was first with 44 points heading into last night. But spendid Pittsburgh Penguins centre Sidney Crosby exploded against the Philadelphia Flyers to take over the scoring lead.
Spezza is frank when asked if he keeps an eye on the leaders.
"Always," he said yesterday. "It's definitely a little sidebar for me.
"I'm an offensive guy, I want to be around the top. If I win a scoring title, great.
"But the only way that can happen is if the team does well. That's when you get individual success."
Spezza says his back, surgically repaired over the summer, has felt much better the last 15 games or so.
That has led to him skating better, as have the sprints he and teammates have been led through at the end of practice the past four or five weeks.
"We've had a lot more up-tempo practices, in general," said Spezza, who wasn't able to practice much at the end of last year because of the back problems.
"They've been skating us hard.
"Foot speed is always something I have to concentrate on. It feels good to be able to get the work in."
Spezza and regular linemate Danny Heatley once again have Chris Kelly as their defensive conscience on the wing.
While they are expected to work hard both ways, Spezza and Heatley need an opportunity to do their thing with the puck. That is a huge key to the team's success.
"When Spezza and Heatley aren't scoring, we don't have others guys who are capable of stepping up and doing it on a consistent basis right now," said coach Bryan Murray.