Found January 19, 2013 on
Fox Sports Southwest:
DALLAS -- When the Dallas Stars open the shortened, 48-game version of the 2013 NHL season on Saturday night against Phoenix at American Airlines Center, they will do so with a familiar face in goal in veteran Kari Lehtonen.
Of course, the Finnish netminder has firmly established himself as Dallas' No. 1 option between the pipes ever since he came over in a trade with Atlanta in 2010. And except for an occasional injury here and there, he has been the man in goal for the Stars ever since.
Lehtonen, now 29, comes off a season where he started 59 games, going 32-22-4 with a 2.33 goals-against-average and four shutouts. Of course, he did miss a stretch of the season in November and December 2011 with a groin injury, which ironically enough was suffered against these same Coyotes, but other than that stretch off the ice it was pretty much smooth sailing for him last season.
Stars fans remember that while he was off the ice last season, it was the emergence of rookie Richard Bachman, who was called up from the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League to serve as Andrew Raycroft, then Lehtonen's backup, for as long as Kari was unable to play.
But a funny thing happened when "Bachs" came up and got a chance to play. Raycroft didn't play well at all, leaving the door open for the young rookie and he performed so well that by the time Lehtonen returned in December, it was Raycroft heading to the AHL and not Bachman.
However, Bachman now finds himself in Cedar Park after the Stars sent him down on Friday. That leaves another rookie, Christopher Nilstorp, a 28-year-old netminder out of Sweden whom the Stars signed last summer as Lehtonen's backup for the time being.
In 28 games in the AHL this season, Nilstorp has definitely shown he's NHL ready, going 16-10-4 with a 2.13 GAA and four shutouts. Given those numbers and how much he's impressed everyone in the Dallas organization ever since he joined the club less than a year ago, it's not surprising to hear Stars goaltending coach Mike Valley rave about the young Swede.
"A mature, smart goaltender that I believe can compete at this level. He's adjusted well in the American League. He's played close to 30 games and he's been excellent," Valley said. "Again, he's 28-years-old so he's kind of gone through his ups and downs. He's learned some things, but a sharp, sharp goaltender."
Before Bachman was sent to the AHL, there was some thought that the Stars might carry three goaltenders at least to start the season and Dallas second-year head coach Glen Gulutzan even said as much after a practice earlier this week.
However, there is no doubt that Lehtonen is the man between the pipes in Big D and will continue to hold that designation. Before last season, Valley noticed a big difference in Kari because he had gotten married, which had allowed him to leave everything at the ice, good or bad, after a game.
And in this recently-concluded off-season, the affable Finn became a father for the first time and the man who works with him closer than any other member of the Dallas coaching staff has definitely noticed another change for the good in the club's top goaltender.
"Of course it does help you. You have other things to do when you get home. You've got to be a dad. You've got to help out and that's a good thing. He's extremely focused," Valley said. "He's always one of the first guys at the rink. You see how his preparation is. He has the ability once he steps in the doors, everything else disappears. It's strictly hockey. Hopefully he has that ability when he leaves the rink too. Now he can just think about being a family dad. Just like anything he does, he lives in the now. Whatever he's doing at that time is what he's focusing on. It's an unbelievable way to approach your life."
Such focus is definitely a good thing, especially considering that keeping Lehtonen healthy and upright for the bulk of a 48-game season, where he could start between 40 and 42 games, could prove crucial if the Stars are to snap a playoff drought that has now reached four straight years.
BEST OF MAXIM
PUNCHLINE AFTER PUNCHLINE
The Dallas Stars got in on the Manti Te'o heckling with a funny image on their big screen during a game. See the team's joke here.
The Dallas Stars used the jumbotron at the American Airlines Center to take a shot at Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o during the third period of Saturday's NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes.
The jumbotron displayed an empty seat with the caption "Manti Teo's girlfriend: Welcome to the game!" Totally unnessary, but totally hilarious.
NHL hockey is finally back. and the dozen or so millions of hockey fans remaining in America are ecstatic that the lockout is over and the season wasn't canceled.
One of them, apparently, was Manti Te'o's imaginary girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, who was in attendance of the Dallas Stars first game of the season.
Yes, these jokes are gonna continue for a while...
After collecting four points in his Dallas Stars debut, in a 4-3 Dallas Stars victory over the Phoenix Coyotes Saturday night, Jaromir Jagr will be the most added player in Yahoo fantasy hockey leagues tomorrow.The 40-year-old NHL legend was signed as a free-agent this summer by the Stars and is paying dividends early. Jagr is only currently 53% owned in Yahoo fantasy, it is safe...
Jaromir Jagr’s impressive debut with the Dallas Stars wasn’t the only highlight of the evening at the American Airlines Arena Saturday. Manti Te’o's girlfriend Lennay Kekua made an appearance! We have proof too in the photo below… Photo via Will Brinson
Jaromir Jagr scored two goals and assisted on two others, including the game-winner, in his Dallas debut, and the Stars opened the shortened season with a 4-3 victory Saturday night over the Phoenix Coyotes.
The 40-year-old Jagr, the NHL's active leader in goals, assists and points, had a hand in all four goals for Dallas. Ray Whitney, Phoenix's leading scorer last season...
This Manti Te'o story has truly taken a life of its own. The bizarre tale of a Notre Dame star linebacker and his (fake) girlfriend has been the subject of many jokes since Deadspin broke the news on Wednesday.With that being said, the Dallas Stars had a very special guest in attendance for their season opener on Saturday night. Lennay Kekua, the name of Te'o's alleged...
1) Can the team find their chemistry quickly enough with the shortened season?
There’s a lot of roster turnover on the team and the lack of a real training camp really hurts, but I’m going to say yes. Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney have been around long enough that they should be able to pick up the system quickly. Jagr’s been sort of a mercenary for the past decade so he’s...
DALLAS -- Loui Eriksson netted the game-winner with 6:55 left in the third period as the Dallas Stars handed the Phoenix Coyotes a 4-3 defeat before a sellout crowd of 18,532 at American Airlines Center. Eriksson found the back of the net for the first time this season with a well-placed wrister from the slot after a great pass from new Dallas teammate Jaromir Jagr, who had two...
Even the Dallas Stars are getting in on the Manti Te’o fake girlfriend fun. During the third period of the team’s season-opening game on Saturday, cameras in the arena flashed to an empty chair in section 125 and showed it on the jumbotron. The caption was: “Manti Te’o's girlfriend welcome to the game!”
When the Te’oing trend was established, the invisible girlfriend...
PREVIEW 6:30 AM CST
Coming off a 4-3 opening night win at the American Airlines Center, the Dallas Stars have to turn around and make a trip to Minnesota to take on the Wild. The game starts at 7 p.m. central time and will be televised on Fox Sports Southwest.
Last night, future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr made an electrifying debut for the Stars, tallying the first two Dallas...
PREVIEW 5:45 AM
For the first time since narrowly missing the playoffs last spring, the Dallas Stars will take the ice in game action. The lockout-shortened 2013 season starts tonight at the American Airlines Center with a clash against defending Pacific Division champion Phoenix. The game starts at 7:00 p.m. central time and will be broadcast on Fox Sports Southwest.
Dallas Stars (1-0-0, 2pts) @ Minnesota Wild (1-0-0, 2 pts)
7:00 PM CT
Xcel Energy Center, Saint Paul, Minnesota
(Delving) Into the Wild:
Minnesota made the biggest splash in free agency last summer (and was probably a huge reason why the lockout had to happen) with their gigantic signings of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise.
Parise paid off immediately last night as...
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Zach Parise's first goal in a Wild uniform made the difference, as the Wild improved to 2-0 for the season, shutting out the Dallas Stars 1-0 on Sunday. Dallas got 31 saves from rookie goalie Cristopher Nilstorp in his NHL debut, but could not muster any offense in the Stars' first road game of the season. Parise, the NHL's most talked-about free...