Kari Lehtonen fights groin injury; should the Stars find some goalie insurance?

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karilehtonendrink.jpgIf you were to choose a goalie for one game, you could do worse than Kari Lehtonen. I’m not saying that he’s a premier goalie in the league at this point in his career, but he’s a big, talented netminder who fills up a lot of the net and also comes with the pedigree of being the second overall pick in a draft.

The problem with Lehtonen – something Atlanta Thrashers fans know all too well – is that he is very injury prone. Just look at the wide array of ailments that plagued the talented but troubled Finn; from back surgery to groin strains and conditioning assignments, his body seems “not right” almost as often as he’s healthy. He only played 12, 46 and 48 games in the last three seasons … and let’s not forget that Dallas is the home of delicious barbecue food, Tex-Mex cuisine and 22-oz. steaks. That’s not exactly the best environment for a guy who has a history of being in and out of shape.

Anyway, while it doesn’t sound like it’s a big deal, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports that Lehtonen already tweaked his groin in the preseason.

The big news today is that Kari Lehtonen missed practice with a groin injury and will not play Tuesday against Colorado in a pre-season start that had been previously scheduled.

Lehtonen, who has a long injury history, simply has had some soreness in the groin, and the Stars want to be cautious in their management of his health. He was great in his pre-season opener Friday with one goal allowed on 35 shots against in a 2-1 win against Colorado. However, he left practice Sunday because of the groin soreness.

Here’s coach Marc Crawford:

“He has a slight groin problem, so we are trying to nip it in the bud right now. He didn’t pull it or anything yesterday, he was was just trying to be careful with it. Today, it’s better but we just decided to push his start back so he can play the whole game on Thursday.

“We’re just trying to be smart with Kari. I believe he’ll practice tomorrow. We’ll change that if we come in tomorrow and he’s still sore.”

If all goes well, Lehtonen would play Thursday at home and then again in the final preseason game Sunday at St. Louis . Andrew Raycroft will get the start in goal, and that should be interesting, as Raycroft and Brent Krahn are battling for the backup goalie spot.

Look, there’s nothing wrong with being an optimist. It’s wise to take a glass half-full approach to many things in life. But that being said, are we sure that GM Joe Nieuwendyk properly prepared for the extremely injury prone Lehtonen? I know Andrew Raycroft put up decent numbers last year in Vancouver (he went 9-5-1 with a 91.1 save percentage), but he’s still Andrew Raycroft. I’m not totally familiar with Brent Krahn’s game, but you have to think that the team isn’t going to invest it’s season in him just yet.

So with a netminder as fragile as Lehtonen, I cannot help but wonder if Jose Theodore might be a good “Lowered Expectations” fit in Dallas. I posed this idea to Joe Yerdon last night, but if Theodore was willing to take a two-way contract with a team dealing with injury worries, he might be able to steal a top job or create a 1a/1b situation. It wouldn’t be the ideal situation for Theodore, but being without an NHL job isn’t exactly a dream scenario either.

Considering Lehtonen’s frequent trips to the IR, the Stars might want to come up with a Plan B.

Ristolainen, still without a contract, makes ‘good will’ gesture towards Sabres

BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 22: Rasmus Ristolainen #55 of the Buffalo Sabres makes a pass during the game against the Detroit Red Wings on January 22, 2016 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/Getty Images)
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Rasmus Ristolainen doesn’t have a contract yet, and he’s not particularly close to getting one either.

But the Sabres defenseman, a restricted free agent, doesn’t want to burn any bridges, so he arrived at KeyBank Center on Thursday as a “good will” gesture, reports The Buffalo News. He’ll practice with his teammates, head coach Dan Bylsma confirmed.

“Everyone knows how dedicated he is to his training, and he wanted to continue to build on the gains he made this summer,” Ristolainen’s agent, Mike Liut, wrote in an email to the News. “In the end, this made sense to him, at least in the short term.”

The eighth overall pick in the 2013 draft, Ristolainen had nine goals and 32 assists in 82 games for the Sabres last season.

“I still trust that we will make that contract happen,” Ristolainen told reporters a couple of weeks ago at the World Cup in Toronto, where he was representing Finland. “I like Buffalo. I want to be there as long as I can and I feel they feel the same way about me. I trust it’s going to be taken care of.”

Related: Rieder’s agent thinks trade from Coyotes is best for both parties

Wild to play Coyle at RW, likely on top line with Parise and Staal

Minnesota Wild center Charlie Coyle, right, controls the puck against Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith during the first period of Game 1 in the second round of the NHL Stanley Cup hockey playoffs in Chicago, Friday, May 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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It’s been the ongoing storyline over Charlie Coyle‘s four years in Minnesota — center, or wing?

This year, it’ll be the latter.

At least to start.

Head coach Bruce Boudreau confirmed Coyle will begin the year playing at right wing, potentially on the club’s top line next to Zach Parise and Eric Staal.

“I think I’m built more for that game,” Coyle said, per the Star-Tribune. “Long-term, I think they like me at center, I don’t know. It doesn’t matter to me, but it is nice to be able to consistently play one place and not go back and forth.

“Mentally, once you play one place, you feel more comfortable.”

Coyle has played center quite often, most notably during the ’14-15 campaign when he finished third on the team in faceoffs taken (behind Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund). And while it’s obvious he’d be able to impact the game more playing down the middle rather than outside, Coyle’s attributes on the wing are hard to pass up.

Specifically, his ability to find the back of the net.

Coyle scored a career-high 21 goals last year, many of them coming while playing RW. For a Wild team that isn’t all that dynamic offensively, such production is hard to pass up.

What’s more, the Wild do have options down the middle.

Staal and Koivu are there, as is Mikael Granlund. Erik Haula‘s proven to be a quality 3C or 4C, and Coyle could always flip back to center in a pinch.

Putting Coyle on the wing would also give Boudreau more balance among his forward group. Granlund — who, like Coyle, is also versatile enough to play wing — could move to the left side on the Koivu-Jason Zucker line, which would give Minnesota a nice third unite comprised of Haula, Nino Niederreiter and Jason Pominville.

Stecher makes memorable debut for Canucks, the team he grew up supporting

Vancouver Canucks' Alexander Edler, of Sweden; Joseph Labate; Alexis D'Aoust; James Sheppard; and Troy Stecher, from left, celebrate Labate's goal against the Edmonton Oilers during the second period of an NHL hockey preseason game Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Troy Stecher admitted he was “still shaking” when he met with reporters following last night’s preseason game in Vancouver. The 22-year-old rookie defenseman had just scored one goal and added two impressive assists in the Canucks’ 5-3 win over the Oilers.

Not bad for an undrafted, local kid who grew up a fan of the team.

“Something I’ll never forget, obviously,” Stecher said. “First game at Rogers (Arena). I grew up watching the Canucks, coming here. It was a different feeling being on the other side of it.”

It was only one game, but for the second year in a row, a defenseman who just finished his college career appears to be pushing for a spot on the Canucks. Last year, it was Ben Hutton, out of Maine, and he made it.

So, could Stecher, out of North Dakota, actually crack the Canucks’ roster as a right-shot, offensive defenseman?

Well, he’s already beaten out Jordan Subban, who’s been returned to the AHL. His main, remaining competition figures to be North America returnee Philip Larsen, who’s been in the KHL the past couple of seasons.

The answer has to be yes.

But again, it’s only been one game. He’s earned another one, according to head coach Willie Desjardins, so he’ll have to build on his first one.

“I’m a young guy, so confidence is huge,” said Stecher. “I think I played pretty well. If I have a poor game, then you kind of dwell on it all day tomorrow and it’s in your mind. At the same time, I’ve just got to put it in my back pocket. Tomorrow’s a new day and I’ve got to come to the rink prepared to work hard and just continue to do my thing.”

Related: Prized North Dakota d-man Stecher goes pro, signs with Canucks

Report: Lindholm seeking eight-year deal from Ducks, at least $6M per

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 04:  Hampus Lindholm #47 of the Anaheim Ducks reacts to his power play goal with Kevin Bieksa #2 to take a 4-1 lead over the Los Angeles Kings during the second period at Staples Center on February 4, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Details are starting to come out about the contractual impasse between Anaheim and prized young defenseman Hampus Lindholm.

Fresh off an appearance with Team Sweden at the World Cup, Lindholm — a still-unsigned RFA — is reportedly seeking “more than $6 million per season over eight years,” according to the O.C. Register.

The 22-year-old is currently in Sweden training with SHL club Rogle BK, the team he played for prior to getting drafted sixth overall in 2012.

Lindholm is coming off his three-year, entry-level deal, one that carried a cap hit of $894,166.

The Ducks are in a bit of a financial squeeze and also need to sort out another RFA — versatile forward Rickard Rakell — so it’s understandable why negotiations with Lindholm have been drawn out.

That said, they’re not going to want to drag feet much longer.

Lindholm is a budding star on defense, coming off a year in which he scored a career-best 10 goals and 28 points in 80 games, averaging 22 minutes per night. He was also a huge part of Anaheim’s run to Game 7 of the Western Conference Final the previous spring, scoring 10 points in 16 games while increasing his ice time to 23:15.

According to the Register, the “feeling” is that Anaheim’s closer to a deal with Rakell than Lindholm. And on that note, it’s worth mentioning the Ducks make their season debut in two weeks — on Oct. 13, with a road date in Dallas.