I will credit Matt Niskanen with this: After struggling to be a resilient player with the Dallas Stars once Sergei Zubov was felled by a wonky hip, he's found new life after being traded to the Penguins last season.
But since being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins to open up roster space for other defensemen on the depth chart, he's found a steady rhythm. No, he's not a spectacular contributor, but he's nowhere near the liability he became near the end of his Dallas career.
Niskanen and James Neal, who were both traded for Alex Goligoski before the trade deadline last season, make their first appearance at the American Airlines center as opposing players today as the Stars play host to the Penguins, and Niskanen said he plans to make himself noticable.
"I'm not [upset with Stars general manager Joe] Nieuwendyk, because it turned out to be the right thing for me," Niskanen said Tuesday.
"But, at the same time, I think I'll have a little bit of a chip on my shoulder, just playing ... [against] a team that kind of overlooked you in the end. Yeah, I think I'll have a chip on my shoulder."
Most of the other quotes in the article are fairly vanilla, but make sure you give it a read through to the end, where Niskanen tries to place the blame for his struggles in Dallas on Marc Crawford. While I will fully acknowledge the system was never really his forte, he had pretty significant set of issues under Dave Tippett that I think he's minimizing.
After the jump, more on the Stars game with the Penguins, Razor breaks down the playoff race and why won't the other Pacific Division teams lose when the Stars need them to?
- While I don't like the headline on this paywalled story, as I think the only thing "controversial" about the Stars-Penguins trade is explaining that sometimes a move is good for both teams to those who insist on having winners and losers, Mike Heika explains why the Stars are quite happy with their end of the deal. [DallasNews.com]
- I'm not sure today marks the start of the stretch drive, but the Stars continue to find themselves having to earn points to stay in the playoff hunt. [ESPN Dallas]
- Razor breaks down the playoff race in the way only he can. [Razor with an Edge]
- This blog gave us a nice stick-tap on our transcription of the Tom Gaglardi interview from The Ticket, and they picked out what they thought was the most interesting comment. [ProHockeyTalk]
- Tim Cowlishaw was one of the guys who did some extensive Stars coverage in the 1990s, including the 1999 Stanley Cup run, and he was impressed by the grit the Stars showed in their win over the Vancouver Canucks. [DallasNews.com]
- Kari Lehtonen gets some nice kudos in this story about players that could impact the playoff race. [NHL.com]
- The fine folks over at Backhand Shelf have summed up how you should feel about all the Western Conference trade deadline moves. [Backhand Shelf]
- Jonathan Toews continues to be unavailable for the Chicago Blackhawks with the "upper-body injury" that everyone is assuming is a concussion. [ESPN Chicago]
- Meet the enemy, part the first: Understandably, a lot of the Penguins attention is focused on Neal and Niskanen returning to Dallas. [CBS Pittsburgh]
- Meet the enemy, part the second: Much like the Stars, the Penguins are taking the lack of movement at the trade deadline as a vote of confidence from management. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]
- Around the Pacific Division: Oh look, it's one of those nights. The San Jose Sharks got one measly goal, but it was enough for a 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. The Los Angeles Kings had what for them amounts to a full year's worth of offensive fireworks in a 4-0 victory over the Minnesota Wild. And the Phoenix Coyotes followed the Stars script for beating the Canucks by coming back in the third for a 2-1 shootout win. [San Jose Mercury News/Minneapolis Star-Tribune/Arizona Republic]
- The Washington Capitals didn't make a move at the trade deadline, but George McPhee had quite a fun day on Facebook. [Russian Machine Never Breaks]
- Interviews with Stars players over video of Tuesday's practice. What could be better? Also, apparently Sheldon Souray chews gum during practice. I would last about 3.6 seconds doing that before either swallowing it or starting to choke.