After four games, Kari Lehtonen is ready to jump back into the final battle for a playoff spot. Thankfully, it is just in time.
All season long, the Dallas Stars have been extremely careful with Kari's groin issues. While they may play him for 19 consecutive games, they are very quick to take him out if they feel like there is a problem. This strategy has worked well, for the most part, as Kari has been the workhorse of the team, while still getting a few games rest when he needs it.
But with the season on the line, Kari will once again return to face one of the top teams in the Western Conference. He believes he is up to the task.
"I feel good. I've had a couple of good days of practicing and I am excited to get back in there," he said. "Games are different, so you never know if you are 100 percent. I am definitely good enough to play. That's all that matters."
Lehtonen could benefit from this recent time off. That Los Angeles game in which he was injured was his 19th consecutive start. The hope is Lehtonen will return refreshed.
"Obviously you never want to see somebody get hurt and be out, but the positive is that you get a little bit of a mental break," said Stars goaltending coach Mike Valley. "Now, you kick in gear for six games and help your team get into the playoffs. You just get a bit of a fresh mentality. If you've played 23 straight games it's a little different, especially in this schedule where you are playing almost every other night. I see that little mental break as a good thing for him."
Stars fans will be watching on the edge of their seats tonight, as a hopefully refreshed Kari can keep the score down to a minimum. Given the current line up on the team, it is likely that the Stars will have to grind out a 1-0 or 2-1 score if they hope to walk out of the building with a win. And with the way the shots faced has trended over the last several games, Kari will certainly be put to the test to get it done.
Let's just hope he really is at 100%. Anything less, and things might be looking a little bleak in the morning.
Coming up in today's links: Additional notes concerning the Stars, the playoff race in general, and Bostonians sing the national anthem.
- This is not hockey related, but as you may have heard, there was an explosion in West, TX last night. Since this is en route between the Texas Stars in Austin and the Dallas Stars, many of you may be familiar with this area. If you would like to help, there are a number of ways to assist. You can always donate blood (this is needed year round, not just in emergencies!), you can donate funds to the Red Cross, or you can get with your local relief effort group and do some good. If you do not know where to begin, but want to do something, I suggest checking out the Red Cross link above. They do a little bit of everything, from blood donations, to fundraising, to physical volunteer work. Please do not just show up in West without a gameplan if you intend to help. As someone who has done event coordination, while the thought is greatly appreciated, sometimes the hundreds of people standing around not knowing where to go or what to do can only add to the confusion. Things go far more smoothly if you call and get situated first.
- Mark Stepneski has his game preview for tonight, including a stats match-up between the two teams. [Stars Inside Edge]
- The Washington Post gives the Stars a little love, after seeing how well the kids have done since the trade deadline. [Washington Post]
- Concerning the playoff race part 1: Finally, some good news! Detroit lost in regulation against the Flames last night. This might be the first time the Flames have actually helped us out. Make sure you watch the highlights and thank Howard for everything he did. [NHL]
- Concerning the playoff race part 2: The Ducks, however, decided to lose to Columbus in OT, providing absolutely no help whatsoever. [NHL]
- Concerning the playoff race part 3: The net effect last night was good, as the Stars' odds of making the playoffs went up a few points. Believe it or not, the Stars can lose tonight, and still be in control of their own destiny, so long as they win their final two games in regulation (and win the other three as well). Columbus plays again in LA tonight, so make sure you keep an eye on that one. [Sports Club Stats]
- Meanwhile, in the East, Pittsburgh continues its charge towards the postseason, with a 6-4 win over the Habs. (More like the Hab nots, am I right? Hello? Is this thing on?) Bad jokes aside, Brenden Morrow scored a couple of goals, and they were beauties. [NHL]
- Speaking of the Habs, Ryan White was suspended for five games, thanks to his dirty hit. [Globe And Mail]
- With six outdoor games next year, many people think it's overkill. I'm on the opposite side of this argument. Why does it have to be a special thing that only five or six markets ever get to participate in, when it can become a league wide tradition instead? [Globe And Mail]
- Despite the Red Wings loss last night, they are still gearing up for the playoffs. I hope they have a faulty clutch. (Oh come on, that one was gold.) [Globe and Mail]
- Shea Weber is trying to figure out where his team went wrong. Figuring that they went for it all last year and failed, that's a good place to start. The other might be the financially crippling (for a budgeted team) contract they were forced to accept. [ESPN]
- Here are the three stars from around the NHL last night, including Begin, who scored those two amazing goals against Howard in Calgary. [Puck Daddy]
- Finally for your video of the day, here are the people of Boston signing the national anthem. It really is fantastic to hear when sung like this.