Asham says absence was precautionary
Arron Asham is likely to return to the lineup tonight.
Former Penguin Alex Goligoski == traded to Dallas for James Neal and Matt Niskanen at last season's trade deadline == has 26 points, including eight goals, for the Stars this season.
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The Penguins didn't leave any players behind when they flew to Dallas Tuesday afternoon.
That doesn't mean they had to pack a game sweater for everyone.
Of the four players dealing with significant injuries, winger Arron Asham appears to be the only one with a good chance of getting into the lineup during the trip that begins tonight with a game at American Airlines Center and includes a visit Saturday to Denver.
Asham sat out the Penguins 4-2 victory against Columbus Sunday because of an unspecified injury, but participated in a full practice Tuesday at Southpointe with no apparent problem.
"Everything's good," he said. "Just a little banged up. More precautionary than anything, but I felt great out there."
Center Sidney Crosby (concussion-like symptoms/neck) and right winger Tyler Kennedy (high ankle sprain) worked out on the ice with assistant coach Tony Granato and conditioning coach Mike Kadar before practice, but neither seems ready to return.
Coach Dan Bylsma said there is no target date for Crosby to play -- "There is no anticipation right now of when a day might be that Sid would come back to our team," is how he put it -- and downplayed the possibility of Kennedy dressing in the near future, even though his ankle seemed to hold up pretty well for his session on the ice.
"With the injury he has, the high ankle sprain, it's one of those [where] you start to feel good, but it takes a little bit longer than you anticipate, even if he gets on the ice and starts feeling good," Bylsma said.
"He's going to have to get stressed and tested in practice for a couple of days before we see how he is progressing, once he does get back to a full practice."
Backup goalie Brent Johnson, who is listed as day to day because of an undisclosed injury, did not skate Tuesday, although he was spotted in street clothes at Southpointe. His spot is being filled by rookie Brad Thiessen.
Dallas owns a share of eighth place in the Western Conference and has it, at least in part, because of the work of goalie Kari Lehtonen.
He is 24-15-3 and ranked 11th in the league in goals-against average (2.32) and 14th in save percentage (.921) before Tuesday.
Lehtonen actually has some better numbers than Marc-Andre Fleury of the Penguins, who is 32-14-3, but placed 25th in save percentage (.912) and was tied for 14th in goals-against average (2.34).
Fleury has been white-hot lately, stopping 61 of the 62 shots he faced in his past two starts, but Lehtonen isn't far off that pace, either, turning aside 83 of the past 86.
"There were times [last season] where I remember, early in the season, [Lehtonen] carried us," said Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen, who was acquired from the Stars last Feb. 21.
"There were numerous games where we were outplayed, and he gave us a chance to win. ... When he gets hot, he's really hot."
Penguins general manager Ray Shero made it clear long before the NHL trade deadline Monday afternoon that he wouldn't be upset if he didn't make a deal before it passed.
And his players made it just as clear Tuesday that they had no problem with Shero standing pat.
"We're feeling pretty confident with the guys we have in the room, and I'm sure Ray is, as well," center Jordan Staal said.
"I'm happy we didn't give up any players. We have a great bunch of guys in the room and we're glad to have everyone still here and working toward our final goal."
The Penguins are understandably pleased with the production they've gotten from Niskanen and James Neal since acquiring them from Dallas last season, but the Stars like what they've gotten from Alex Goligoski, the defenseman the Penguins sent them in that deal, as well.
Enough that he recently received a four-year contract worth $18.4 million from Dallas.
Goligoski, who Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk labeled "one of our core players," has eight goals and 18 assists in 52 games, placing him sixth in the team-scoring race.
First Published February 29, 2012 12:00 am