June 8, 2012 3:10 pm

Sutter hopes for `premium’ play for Gagne

The stat sheet might not have indicated it, but Simon Gagne played much better in Game 4 than he did in Game 4-3. Gagne played only slightly more — 7 minutes, 49 seconds, compared to 6:39 in Game 3 — and took two shots on goal, one fewer than in Game 3, but he looked more comfortable, aggressive and effective. That seemed to catch the attention of Darryl Sutter, as, in the latter part of the game, Gagne took some third-line shifts. Of course, he also had one prime scoring opportunity in Game 4, with a step on a defender and only the goalie in front of him, but Martin Brodeur played the angle well and made the stop on what could have been a massive goal.

Based on today’s practice, it seems as though Gagne will return to his fourth-line look. Can he improve further? There’s always a delicate balance for players when they return from a long-term injury. Often, there’s an initial burst of energy and adrenaline, followed by a dip in effectiveness. It will be Gagne’s challenge to avoid that. Given the situation, and his experience, he might have a better-than-usual chance of accomplishing that. Today, Darryl Sutter was asked about the decision to put Gagne back in the lineup, and what he has seen thus far…

SUTTER: “I think offense is always at a premium. If you can get a guy back to close to where he was — I think the farther you go in the playoffs, the more those top‑end guys you can have in your lineup, as long as they’re up to speed, the better your team is. It’s tough to take kids out. You wish you could play everybody.’’

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