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Pacific: 'Captain Canada' hopes for 3rd Olympic trip

by John Kreiser
Ryan Smyth is hoping the injury that cost him a month of playing time with the Los Angeles Kings doesn't cost him an Olympic berth too.
Smyth was making a strong case for a berth on Team Canada thanks to a terrific start with the Kings, where he was part of one of the NHL's best lines along with Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams. He had 9 goals and 23 points in the Kings' first 22 games while helping Kopitar take the League lead in scoring.
Then came an upper-body injury that put the breaks on his fast start. He was placed on injured reserve and won't play again until Saturday, when the Kings visit Phoenix after an eight-day holiday break.
Given the talent level in Canada and his injury, he admits he's nervous about making the team -- and with the team scheduled to be announced on Dec. 20, that's not much time to make an impression.
"It's been playing a little bit in my mind," he told Kings Insider. "I haven't heard from anybody. It's disappointing, being injured, with how things were going for myself personally. I would love to play on that team, but that's not my choice to make. I just want to give myself every opportunity in the next two games."
Smyth has represented his country in the past two Olympics and earned the name "Captain Canada" for the numerous times he's played for Team Canada internationally. He's eager to help Canada win a gold medal in Vancouver to go with the one he earned in Salt Lake City eight years ago.
"I believe they're announcing the team on the 30th, so I've got a couple games to make my stand, if there is one," he said. "I just want to give myself every opportunity to be a part of it. I know how exciting it was back in '02 and '06. We lost in '06, but any time you represent your country, it's an honor."
Early arrival -- The Dallas Stars had high hopes for Jamie Benn. But not this season.
The 20-year-old, a fifth-round pick in the 2007 Entry Draft, was invited to training camp in September following a 46-goal season in juniors in 2008-09, though he was not expected to make the team. But he surprised a lot of people by playing hard enough and well enough to earn a ticket to the NHL -- and he's played well enough to stay there.
"It's been pretty exciting," said Benn, who scored his seventh goal of the season in Monday's 4-2 loss to San Jose. "I just came in and worked hard every day and it paid off."
Captain Brenden Morrow said Benn's skills were evident from the moment he took the ice at camp.
"The first thing you see is the release he has shooting the puck," Morrow told the Stars' Web site. "As training camp and preseason (games) went on you saw his puck play, how strong he is with it. He wins a lot of battles, and every element in his game just keeps getting better and better."
Coach Marc Crawford also noticed Benn right away.

"He wasn't one of the best players in preseason, he was the best player during preseason," Crawford said. "We weren't sure if he'd be ready right away, but he came in almost Day 1 of training camp and looked so good. When you're generating scoring chances and doing all sorts of things, people take notice. We took notice."
If there's anything Benn still has to work on, Crawford said, it's defense -- a problem that's mainly a byproduct of not having any minor-league experience.

"He missed that step so we're trying to supplement that for him with extra practice, video review, so he gets that knowledge," Crawford said. "It's teachable, but he's going to make mistakes. That's one of the balances that we've got. As long as he's continuing to create for us, we're trying to give him whatever we can to have that knowledge."
Afternoon delight -- Maybe the Anaheim Ducks should petition to change some of their evening games at home to matinees.
The Ducks spent the Saturday afternoon before Christmas beating the Phoenix Coyotes 4-2 at the Honda Center, continuing the team's success in afternoon games at home. Since 2002, they are 13-1-4 when playing in the afternoon in Anaheim -- including a 3-0 victory over Chicago on Nov. 27 that ended the Hawks' eight-game winning streak.
The hero of the day was goaltender Jonas Hiller, who stopped 39 of the Coyotes' 41 shots to improve to 8-0-2 all-time against Phoenix.
Unfortunately for the Ducks, there are no more afternoon games on the home schedule.
Happy to be here -- Most people would be upset to have their holiday plans changed abruptly. But when the change means a recall to the NHL -- well, that's different.
Kevin Porter was planning to spend the holidays with his folks in Michigan during a five-day break in San Antonio's AHL schedule. But that was until he got a call from Phoenix Assistant General Manager Brad Treliving, telling him he was needed ASAP.
"It's really great to be here," Porter told the Coyotes' Web site after Tuesday's practice. "It would have been nice to have a few days off and visit with my family, but it's part of the job and that's the way it goes. I'm very excited about being here."
Porter, who played two games with the Coyotes earlier in the season, was tops on the Rampage with 10 goals and 14 assists for 24 points.
The Coyotes had wanted the 2008 Hobey Baker Award winner in uniform for Monday's home game against Columbus, but he was already on his way home. That gave him the opportunity for an early holiday dinner with his family on Monday before he flew to Phoenix early Tuesday.
Around the Pacific --
No one will be happier to see Ryan Smyth back in the Kings' lineup than his center, Anze Kopitar. In 22 games with Smyth, Kopitar had 14 goals and 18 assists for a League-high 32 points. In 15 games without Smyth, Kopitar totaled 2 goals and 4 assists. ... Dallas and San Jose won't be seeing each other for a while. The Sharks won 4-2 at Dallas on Monday; the teams don't meet again until March 16, the first of three meetings in 15 days. ... San Jose went without a power play in its win at Dallas -- the last time a Stars opponent didn't receive a man-advantage chance was the Los Angeles Kings on April 11, 1999 ...  The Sharks took 12 of the 14 penalty minutes issues in the game and the Stars got all five power plays (they scored once). ... A trip to the first line did wonders for Devin Setoguchi's scoring slump. He got his first goal in 11 games (plus an assist) in San Jose's 4-1 win over Anaheim on Saturday -- after being switched to Joe Thornton's line. Thornton had 2 goals and 2 assists. ... Anaheim's Jonas Hiller and Dan Sexton helped the annual Stuff-a-Bus on Dec. 18 -- the drive collected more than 15,000 toys, completely filling five buses. The annual effort benefits the Spark of Love Toy Drive, which distributes the collected toys and sporting goods to area kids. ... Anaheim forward Joffrey Lupul will miss 6-8 weeks after undergoing back surgery last week. ... Phoenix signed 34-year-old defenseman Anders Eriksson, who has 29 goals and 141 points in 552 NHL games. He had been playing with San Antonio, the Coyotes' AHL affiliate. He made his debut on Monday and had an assist in a 5-2 win over Columbus. ... The win over the Blue Jackets was the seventh in a row for the Coyotes at Arena.

Material from team media was used in this report
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