After nearly a year spent dealing with injuries and other headaches, goaltender Kari Lehtonen finally returned to the ice for the Dallas Stars after Marty Turco was pulled in the second period of a game against the St. Louis Blues. This marked the first time he’s played since April 11, 2009. Update: Lehtonen allowed 2 goals on 16 shots as the Stars lost 6-1.
Although the hockey world focused on Atlanta’s other trade of Ilya Kovalchuk, moving Lehtonen to the Stars ended an extremely frustrating era for the moribund franchise. The hulking (6-4, 200 lbs.) goalie was the second overall pick in the 2002 draft, going before players such as Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Semin and Cam Ward. To add to already high expectations, he was also the highest-ever drafted European goaltender.
Despite showing quite a few signs of promise (and put up save percentage stats that made some think he was an elite goalie), Lehtonen has been very injury-prone. Even before his 11-month sabbatical, Lehtonen only managed a heavy workload in one season (68 games played in 2006-07). There were also some murmurs here and there about Lehtonen’s attitude.
“Like most goaltenders that come from Finland, he is very calculating and direct with his mechanics and plays a nearly flawless positional game. He’s also a very, very large goaltender; he’s listed at 6-4, 215 pounds but looks much bigger than that in net.
… Where it gets concerning is his mobility across the crease, and his propensity to overreact to plays that cross in front of him. His best trait is his aggressiveness as he challenges shooters, and he get’s in trouble when he starts backing down into his crease. He also appears to be a goaltender who is driven by his confidence. When he’s on top of his game he is nearly unstoppable, but when he gets rocked once he starts to fold.”
Moving on to Dallas, Lehtonen is in an interesting situation with the Stars. He’ll be fighting for ice time with embattled (former?) franchise goalie Marty Turco. Both goalies have contracts set to expire after this season (Turco will become an unrestricted free agent while Lehtonen will be restricted). Both goalies have an innate ability to befuddle and dazzle onlookers in the same game.
It’s quite possible that both goalies are talented yet lost causes on a team struggling to find its identity. On the other hand, this could also be the case of a hard luck star finally getting a fresh start.
It’ll be fascinating to find out.
Get set for the Heritage Classic with hot dog facts and more
The Winnipeg Jets host the Edmonton Oilers at the 2016 Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field this afternoon. You can watch it on NHL Network, Sportsnet, TVA Sports 2 or NHL.tv at 3 p.m. ET.
With that in mind, let’s get prepped with super-important stats about unhealthy food, interesting photos and fun facts.
Want to get an in-depth look at the rivalry between the Jets and the Oilers? NHL.com and Sportsnet both have some great retrospectives.
The CBC notes that there was rain ending in the morning but it’s expected to be cloudy. Overall, sounds like a nice climate for an outdoor hockey game. NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika wonders if the sun’s glare might cause some issues.
The Arizona Coyotes received (mostly) good news on Sunday: Mike Smith‘s injury isn’t believed to be “severe,” even if he’s considered week-to-week, according to reporters including TSN’s Darren Dreger.
While Louis Domingue and Justin Peters isn’t the sort of goalie duo that will make shooters think twice about firing the puck, they’re both at least fairly experienced netminders.
(Considering Smith’s struggles with injuries and inconsistency, it’s not surprising that Arizona invested in a little insurance in Peters.)
Domingue is slated to start in net for the Coyotes against the New York Rangers on Sunday. It’s been a bumpy start for him so far, but Arizona has at least a theoretical advantage in that the Rangers played on Saturday.
As far as when Smith will be back? Well here’s a slight idea.
Dave Tippett does not think Mike Smith will be ready for home game vs. Colorado on Oct. 29, but he is not far from getting back on the ice.
Chances are, plenty of hockey fans – and maybe some members of the Colorado Avalanche – were uttering that question after Saturday night.
Well, we know this about Shane Harper: he scored his first two NHL goals at age 27, helping the Florida Panthers beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.
You can watch both of Harper’s goals in the recap video:
Harper also drew enough ire from the Avalanche to get into a bit of a skirmish following a hit.
So, who is Shane Harper?
For one thing, he’s from Valencia, California and did not go drafted.
His best junior season came in 2009-10, when he scored 42 goals and 80 points for the Everett Silvertips. He’s become quite the seasoned AHL veteran since then, and while his numbers won’t wow you, he did do enough in 2014-15 to maybe turn a head or two. Harper scored 32 goals and 50 points for the Chicago Wolves that season.
You can tell his teammates were happy for him – gentle ribbing and all – when the media asked about his career milestone: