The big news coming out of morning skate this morning is that left wing Matt Fraser will not only get into tonight's game against the Nashville Predators, but that the rookie sniper will be on the second line with Derek Roy and Loui Eriksson.
"[Fraser] is in, [Roussel] is out," coach Glen Gulutzan said after today's skate. "We thought [Roussel] has played great for us but we liked what we've seen from [Fraser] on his work over the week, and he'll be on a line with Roy and Eriksson. He's scored a lot of goals in the American Hockey League, but he has to come up here and dig in -- in a really tough game."
Matt Fraser has earned a reputation as a purely one-dimensional forward incapable of playing defense. Those struggles defensively almost certainly delayed his NHL debut, despite scoring 61 goals in his first 124 games with the Texas Stars. This season, however, Fraser has found a more well-rounded approach and has a plus-12 on the season, despite scoring 13 of his 24 goals on the power play.
The rookie forward will now get a prime opportunity in his second NHL game, playing on the second line and likely getting a good look on the power play as well. If Fraser can prove that he can produce and be as offensively dynamic at the NHL level as he has been down in Austin, then he'll certainly find himself a permanent spot in Dallas sooner than later. The trick is to prove it, however, as the Stars seem prepared to put him in the best situations for what he does best.
"It is what it is, it's a game," said Gulutzan, downplaying Fraser's 'debut' a bit. "But he's got two quality players [on his line.] When you look at Matt he's not your typical fourth-line player, the chip-it-in guy; he's got a skill set, he's scored a lot goals at the minor league level and when you bring these kids up you want to put them in a position that suits them and gives them a chance to show off their skill set."
With Fraser in and Roussel out, lines are expected to be:
Morrow - Benn - Jagr
Fraser - Roy - Eriksson
Smith - Eakin - Ryder
Nystrom - Fiddler - Garbutt
As far as the defense goes, Trevor Daley appears to be ready to go for tonight's game although Gulutzan was not going to so far as to ink in the defenseman for tonight's lineup.
"I talked to him on the ice, he said he feels good," said Guulutzan. "We have to consult with [head trainer Dave] Zeis, see where he's at and make a decision on him right away."
Gulutzan stated that pairings would look like this for tonight's game:
Benn - Daley/Sneep
In regards to Sneep, whom the Stars acquired a few weeks back in a minor trade with Pittsburgh, Gulutzan feels as if the big blueliner will be valuable as a depth option for the team.
"He's a big guy, he's played lots of minutes for [the Texas Stars]," said Gulutzan. "He's a right shot, which we don't have a lot of in the organization. Big heavy body, he plays a simple game. He can puck move and he can do a little bit of everything. He's a good guy to bring in here and we're confident in him. We like his size and his ability to move the puck, so it's a good thing for us to have that depth."
Cristopher Nilstorp is in net tonight. Kari Lehtonen, who skated hard on Monday, is still questionable for Tuesday's game in Columbus, reports Mike Heika.