FRISCO, Texas -- Dallas Stars coach Marc Crawford has resorted to making Matt Niskanen a healthy scratch this season and wasn't happy with his play at times last week. But Crawford believes Niskanen can get the job done because he has before.
"At the end of the day, it's up to Matt Niskanen," Crawford said. "He decides if he wants to play and wants to play in a fashion that's going to make him successful. He's still making a good contribution for us, we just happen to think he can perform better. I also think it doesn't matter what we think, it matters what he thinks. He has to push himself.
"We're trying to keep our messages consistent, give him the feedback that will help him make the adjustments he needs. He's capable of doing it. We've seen it this year. When he's on his game, he's much more assertive. And assertiveness is what we want from him. It shows up on the one-on-one battles that happen 25 times a game for a defenseman."
Niskanen has struggled at times to win those battles, and he gave up a late goal when he got turned around and taken off the puck in a loss to the New York Rangers last week. Niskanen has talked this season about improving his confidence and working toward getting his all-around game better. We'll see how he does in the next few games, assuming he's in the lineup.
He has eight points and is minus-10 this season.
The Stars face the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight.