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.

Goalie nods: Corey Crawford gets a chance to snap out of slump for Blackhawks

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With starting goaltender Corey Crawford stuck in his worst slump of the season, and Scott Darling coming off of a 30-save shutout on Friday night, it seemed possible that the Chicago Blackhawks would stick with the same goalie arrangement on Sunday evening against the Vancouver Canucks.

If nothing else Darling has at least made an argument that he probably deserves a little more playing time than he is getting, and that is still true today.

He just will not get that opportunity against the Canucks.

Coach Joel Quenneville is going back to his starter, Crawford, for Sunday’s game.

After a great start to the season, Crawford has struggled mightily since returning to the lineup following an appendectomy in December and enters Sunday’s game with only a .902 save percentage in his past 10 appearances. He has allowed at least three goals in seven of those games. Before this most recent he was sitting at .927 on the season and looked like one of the top contenders for the Vezina Trophy.

The Blackhawks are not used to seeing Crawford struggle like this, especially in recent years as he has become one of the league’s top goaltenders, finishing with a save percentage of .924 or better in three of the past four full seasons. He is too good to continue playing the way he has recently. Perhaps Sunday is the day he starts to get back on track against a team that he has a pretty strong track record against.

The Canucks, entering the game one game out of the second wild card spot in the Western Conference, have yet to announce their starter.

Elsewhere…

— Jared Coureau and Henrik Lundqvist went for the Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers in their afternoon tilt on NBC, while Matt Murray and Tuukka Rask faced off in Pittsburgh for the Penguins and Boston Bruins.

— After starting 12 consecutive games Mike Condon goes again for the Ottawa Senators on Sunday against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets are expected to go with Joonas Korpisalo.

Thomas Greiss returns to the net for the New York Islanders on Sunday after getting Saturday night off and looks for his third consecutive shutout. He has stopped all 55 shots he has faced in his past two games against the Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars. The Philadelphia Flyers will go with Steve Mason after Michal Neuvirth took the loss against New Jersey on Saturday.

Darcy Kuemper is expected to get the start for the Minnesota Wild when they take on the Nashville Predators. Pekka Rinne goes for the Predators.

Red Wings lose Thomas Vanek against Rangers

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 13:  Thomas Vanek #62 of the Detroit Red Wings gets ready for a face-off against Tampa Bay Lightning during a game at the Amalie Arena on October 13, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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This is not the news the Detroit Red Wings needed on Sunday afternoon.

Forward Thomas Vanek left their game against the New York Rangers following the first period for undisclosed reasons. The team announced that he will not return to the game.

Vanek has been a steal for the Red Wings this season after signing him to a one-year, $2.6 million contract in free agency. When healthy he has been arguably their best, most impactful forward this season and entered play on Sunday tied for the team lead in goals (12) and total points (31) even though he had already missed nine games this season.

He played 6:58 in the first period before exiting the game after being shaken up near the Rangers’ net.

He already missed time this season due to a hip injury.

Given his success this season with the team, as well as the Red Wings’ current spot in the Eastern Conference standings that has them several points out of a playoff spot, he has been a popular name mentioned in trade speculation in advance of the trade deadline, something that he seems well aware of.

WATCH LIVE: New York Rangers at Detroit Red Wings

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 19: Justin Abdelkader #8 of the Detroit Red Wings looks to block a shot by Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers during the third period at Madison Square Garden on October 19, 2016 in New York City. The Red Wings defeated the Rangers 2-1.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Detroit Red Wings are trying to play their way back into playoff contention and have gained points in four consecutive games, including wins in each of their past three home games.

On Sunday they trying to extend that home winning streak against a New York Rangers team that is one of the highest scoring teams in the league, but has had a heck of a time stopping teams in recent weeks giving up 50 goals in their past 12 games.

All of the action starts on NBC at 12:30 p.m. ET and you can watch all of it there, or online via our live stream.

It is also a Star Sunday that will focus on Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin and Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh.

Click here for the live stream

Preview: Red Wings look to take advantage of Rangers’ struggling defense

Who can challenge Dylan Larkin as the league’s fastest skater?

 

Wayne Simmonds takes blame for penalty that resulted in game changing goal

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 05:  Wayne Simmonds #17 of the Philadelphia Flyers waits for the face off against the Montreal Canadiens at the Wells Fargo Center on January 5, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The Philadelphia Flyers had a tough second period on Saturday night on their way to a 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils.

It all started when Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas was penalized for clipping Devils forward Miles Wood on a play that the Flyers felt was a legal hip check. Following that call, forward Wayne Simmonds had a brief discussion with referee Dan O’Halloran — the referee that made the call — resulting in Simmonds picking up a two-minute minor for unsportsmanlike conduct. It wasn’t even a particularly heated discussion (watch it here) and seemed to be similar to ones you see happen in most games across the league on any given night without further incident.

That gave the Devils an extended 5-on-3 power play that resulted in a Kyle Palmieri power play goal to break what had been a 1-1 tie.

Just three minutes later Wood scored his first of two goals on the night to begin putting the game out of reach.

This was the entire sequence that led to the Palmieri goal.

“I’ll take blame for that,” Simmonds said after the game, via CSN Philadelphia when asked about what happened. “I didn’t agree with the penalty, I got an extra two that’s my fault. They score a goal, make it 2-1, that’s a momentum changer, I take all of the blame for that.”

Simmonds would not say what was said between the two, only adding “The referee was talking to me; I was talking to him. I am not commenting on calls; it is what it is. It happened, it’s over with now. I am not going to say anything about that.”

Simmonds has been arguably the Flyers’ best player this season with a team-leading 18 goals entering play on Sunday.

Whether that was what sent the game in the wrong direction for the Flyers or not, the most concerning thing is that was another big loss that continued their recent slump that has seen them win just three of their past 15 games. They remain one point back of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference but have already played three more games than them.