Every player on every team will tell you that every game during the season is important. But for the Dallas Stars, the next few weeks will be especially important as they try to keep their head above water without their emerging netminder, Kari Lehtonen.
There was a positive development for Stars fans as Lehtonen was back on the ice this morning for the first time since leaving in the first period of a game against the Coyotes two weeks ago. Since then he’s missed four games and has been receiving treatment on his strained groin from team trainers. Today, he hit the ice.
Head coach Glen Gulutzan shared today with Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News that it’ll still be awhile before we see Lehtonen return to game action. “…Lehts skated today for the first time, so we don’t think we’ll have Lehts before Christmas,” Gulutzan told Heika. “But after Christmas he should be a game player for us. We’ve got these next seven games before the Christmas break, so we’re focused on those.”
Gulutzan understands that the schedule over the next two weeks will be much tougher than it’s been since Lehtonen went down with his injury. After tonight’s game in Los Angeles, the Stars head to the East Coast for the New York area trifecta, before heading home for a three-game homestand. No team in the tight Western Conference can afford a long losing streak—the Stars are no different.
Dallas has been able to tread water thus far without Lehtonen as they’ve gone 2-2 without their netminder. Anyone that follows the Stars understands that Lehtonen has been the backbone of the team over the last two seasons. It’s not just the number of saves he’s been able to make over the last two seasons; it’s the quality of the saves and their timeliness.
They’ll need Raycroft to do his best Kari impersonation this December if they want to compete for a playoff spot in April.