In a move that surprised almost no one after Kari Lehtonen left Friday night's game against the Vancouver Canucks with a lower-body injury, the Dallas Stars have recalled goalie Cristopher Nilstorp from the AHL's Texas Stars.
Nilstorp started the season with Dallas and had a strong NHL debut in a 1-0 shutout loss to the Minnesota Wild, but he was injured in his next start against the St. Louis Blues and spent some time on injured reserve with a groin pull before heading back to Texas to allow Richard Bachman to have his spot on the roster. He gets a fun 29th birthday present with the return to the NHL.
Lehtonen went down awkwardly in the first period of Friday's 4-3 victory, and while he's had some trouble with a groin injury in the past, the Stars aren't saying much at this point except that he's day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
However, the team has not yet placed Lehtonen on injured reserve, which would signify he'd be out at least a week. The Stars can do that and recall Nilstorp because they sent rookie defenseman Jamie Oleksiak back to Austin late last week and did not make a corresponding move to fill his roster spot. With that, and with Ray Whitney still on IR with his broken foot, the Stars were only carrying 22 active players before Nilstorp's promotion.
The Stars have a relatively light week upcoming, with home games against the Calgary Flames on Sunday, the revenge-oriented Vancouver Canucks on Thursday and the currently slumping San Jose Sharks on Saturday. Will Dallas try to ride those three games with six defensemen? Who knows at this point - they could very easily put Lehtonen on IR at any time.
This is just me speculating, but the longer they don't put him on IR, the more I think (or more accurately, hope) that the injury is fairly minor, perhaps even a tweak of an old injury that he knew would be silly to try and fight through, and that Lehtonen might not miss much time at all. Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said after the Canucks game that it seemed like a less serious injury than the one that kept him out for several weeks last season.
With the Texas Stars located it Austin, it would be very simple to call up a defenseman if necessary after Sunday's game against Calgary. The complication is that the Texas Stars head on a road swing to Rochester and Lake Erie mid-week. I suspect if Lehtonen need to go on IR, that's when we'll see the move. It if does end up being minor, the Stars may have dodged a massive bullet. Because while Bachman got stronger as the game went along last night and Nilstorp was decent in his NHL debut, Lehtonen is an elite NHL goalie, and there's just no replacing the effect those have in a game.
Full release on the Nilstorp move is below.
FRISCO, Texas - The Dallas Stars announced today that goaltender Cristopher Nilstorp has been recalled from the Texas Stars, Dallas' development affiliate in the American Hockey League (AHL).
Nilstorp, who turns 29 today, has skated in two games for Dallas this season and has an 0-2-0 record with a .918 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.70 goals-against average (GAA). The Malmo, Sweden native made his NHL debut on Jan. 20 against Minnesota stopping 31-of-32 shots in 59 minutes of play. With the Texas Stars this season, Nilstorp has appeared in 31 games and has earned a 17-10-5 record with a 2.17 GAA, .914 SV% and four shutouts.
Prior to his North American career, he played for Farjestad in the Swedish Elite League (SEL), where he helped the team capture the 2011 Le Mat Trophy, which is earned annually by the victors of the SEL. Nilstorp was undrafted and signed by Dallas as a free agent on June 5, 2012.
The Dallas Stars, winners in five of their last six games, return home from Western Canada to the American Airlines Center and meet the Calgary Flames on Sunday, Feb. 17 at 5:00 p.m. (TV: FOX Sports Southwest; Radio: 1310 The Ticket).
UPDATE: Per Mike Heika, Lehtonen has been placed on injured reserve. Richard Bachman will get the start tomorrow at home against Calgary.