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Monday, December 21, 2009
Is Crawford sending Niskanen a message?


DALLAS -- Dallas Stars coach Marc Crawford said he wanted to see defenseman Matt Niskanen compete harder. That was the reason he gave for scratching Niskanen for the first time in 95 games. It was only his second time to be a healthy scratch the last two seasons.

"It's a privelege to play and you need to play hard," Crawford said when asked why Niskanen was scratched. "If you compete, you can play well. That's what we expect of him."

Niskanen has struggled recently and has looked like a player without much confidence. He's had positional breakdowns, had trouble keeping pucks in the offensive zone on the power play and looks nervous at times with the puck on his stick.

Crawford sent the message that he at least wants Niskanen fighting hard and competing at a high level. But getting a break could be the best thing for Niskanen. He didn't have to worry about making a mistake Monday. He could sit and watch and maybe learn a few things. And, Crawford hopes, think about how badly he wants to play.

I thought it was a good move by Dallas. Niskanen admitted earlier Monday that he was probably overthinking things and was frustrated.

"If I make a mistake or two early in the game, I have to forget about it," Niskanen said after Monday's morning skate. "That's a challenge for young players like myself to put it behind me and move on. I'm working hard and I'll keep working hard."

Niskanen knows he has to get more consistent in his game.

"I know I have to have a tight gap, play good positionally and make sure my compete level is up all the time," Niskanen said.

It's that last part that Crawford is paying close attention to.