As you're already well aware, Kari Lehtonen returns tonight and that was a hot topic of conversation today at morning skate with the Columbus media. Glen Gulutzan knows it's an important factor based on what happened in October between these two teams.
"If I look at that first game and I thought we outplayed Columbus here, but I thought a few nights later when we were in Columbus we got outplayed," said Gulutzan. "I think the difference in those games was Lehts."
The Stars' special teams are under the microscope in a big way after the last four games and they'll try to use the Jackets' 29th ranked penalty kill to get their power play going. Gulutzan was complimentary of their PK unit despite the ranking.
"Columbus' PK is very, very agressive. We've talked about our work ethic, five versus four, that needs to improve and they're going to force you to improve or they're going to counter you all the time."
The Stars are not looking past the Blue Jackets tonight to the defending Cup champs in Boston on Saturday. Unlike their first meeting in Dallas, this time Columbus brings with them their full arsenal of free agent weapons in James Wisniewsky and Jeff Carter.
More after the jump, including Raycroft and a note about the Ott/Laviolette incident on 24/7 last night...
"We know what we're up against. We've watched Columbus here, probably the last four games, and we know the effort they're putting out. They've been leading in lots of games late and they're physical, they're moving, and they're healthy. When we played them they were without a few... Carter, Wisniewski and Boll. Those guys add to that group and every game is it's own in this league."
"Just because we won back in October...it has no merit now. Tonight we know we're in for a hard fought contest."
*Andrew Raycroft has cleared waivers as expected and has been assigned to the Texas Stars. We'll be interested to see what the ice time split is between the veteran and developing goaltender Tyler Beskorowany.
*Expect Toby Petersen in the lineup tonight as the Stars continue to deal with the loss of Robidas and Sheldon Souray, particularly on the power play in this case. There has also been some talk that Alex Goligoski could get more run on the PP, reminiscent of the kind of minutes Brad Richards played (nearly all of them), so we'll see if that materializes.
*The consensus among the media was that Ott was exonerated to some extent on 24/7 last night regarding the Laviolette incident. Ott said "Show some class, you're going to let our team go." Laviolette replied, with as much class as he could muster, "Go F&^% yourself." Then he said it again for good measure and pretended it didn't happen after the game. Gulutzan was asked if he thought Ott was exonerated and said simply "Don't you?"