Aaron Gagnon is expected to get assigned back to the Texas Stars today, and Jamie Benn should be ready to play Thursday against the Florida Panthers. Benn has missed three games with concussion-like symptoms, but he will go through practice on Wednesday and should be ready to go, coach Marc Crawford said.
The Stars have today off from practice for a team-building fishing trip in Tampa, so I talked to Crawford this morning.
He said he expects to bring Benn back at center and will probably play him on a line with Steve Ott (LW) and Brandon Segal (RW). That would be a fairly large, physical line that can check. Ott has been hampered by a lower body injury, so he will be there to help Benn with faceoffs, but won't have to do all of the skating that's required of the center spot.
That would leave Tom Wandell, Brian Sutherby, Toby Petersen and Krys Barch as options on the fourth line.
With Gagnon down, the Stars will probably just go with 13 forwards and have one healthy scratch.
Crawford said he is leaning toward going with Kari Lehtonen in goal again Thursday. He said Lehtonen has handled the shot barrage well, and seems to be in great shape. Backup Andrew Raycroft has not played yet this season, but Lehtonen has shown no signs of fatigue.
``We just have to help him out more than we have,'' Crawford said.
Crawford said that while the shots against (The Stars rank 29th in the league allowing an average of 38.5 per game) are a huge concern, he does see plenty of reason to be optimistic. He said the third period was the Stars' best on Monday (shots were 9-9) and the team clearly has the energy and conditioning to be a team that can be consistent through an entire game. He said the problem with 23 shots in the third period on Long island was fatigue on back-to-back nights. He said the problem Monday with 20 shots against in the second period was the long change and the inability to make the right reads while scrambling.
``But other teams are dealing with the same issues and they're dealing with it better than we are,'' Crawford said. ``So we have to go out and identify the problems and address the problems. What's the old saying, `the first step to the solution is recognizing what the problem is.' We have done that and we're going to address the problem and start to execute better.''
Crawford said that after looking at the film, he is encouraged. He believes this is a good team and it will learn from games like Monday's.
``I think you look at certain things, like we are trying to work too much from the back of the net and that's creating opportunities for teams to counter-attack,'' Crawford said. ``You look at what (Tampa Bay) did, and it was very simple, very hard shots to the net and hard drives to the net. That's what a lot of teams in this league are doing, so we need to be ready for it and we need to do more of it ourselves.''