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Penguins defenseman Niskanen excited about facing former teammates

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Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012

When Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen sees his former teammates Wednesday night, he might greet them with a friendly shoulder check into the boards.

"You certainly don't want to hurt anybody, but if you can get a good laugh out of it after," said Niskanen, who will play his first game in Dallas since he and James Neal were traded to Pittsburgh by the Stars last February.

His target of choice would be physical winger Steve Ott, who leads the Stars in hits (208) and penalty minutes (117). But it's nothing personal.

"It's just the kind of guy he is," Niskanen said. "He'd probably laugh at me, and I'd laugh at him. It's all business during the game, but he's certainly not going to slow up on any hits on anybody, especially not me. Anytime you get a chance to finish a guy like that it's nice."

Niskanen was the Stars' first-round pick in 2005 and played in four seasons with them, and Neal, the Stars' second-round pick in 2005, played three seasons in Dallas.

"It's going to be weird," Niskanen said, "going in the (American Airlines Center), seeing familiar faces and being on the other end of the hall. It's going to be different, but I'm excited for it."

> > Arron Asham practiced Tuesday for the first time since Saturday's upper-body injury against Tampa Bay. Asham missed Sunday's game, but said he feels good and could return soon. However, injured goalie Brent Johnson did not practice and his status remains day-to-day, coach Dan Bylsma said.

> > Tyler Kennedy's high-ankle sprain has shown improvement, but the true test will come whenever he returns to practice, Bylsma said. Kennedy, who was injured Feb. 5, skated again with Sidney Crosby before yesterday's practice in Southpointe.

"(Kennedy) is going to have to get stressed and tested in practice for a couple of days before we see how he is progressing," Bylsma said.

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