Kari Lehtonen is back.
The Dallas goalie — who hasn’t played since Nov. 26 due to a groin injury — will make his return to the ice on Thursday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, according to the team’s official website.
“Lehtonen is ready to go,” Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan said. “[He] will get the start tomorrow night.”
Losers in three of their last five, the Stars will welcome Lehtonen back with open arms. Rookie netminder Richard Bachman has been impressive in relief, but shown recent signs of burnout. Bachman made his eighth consecutive start on Monday against St. Louis and was yanked after allowing three goals on 25 shots.
“You hate to let your teammates down and I know I had to have some of those,” Bachman said afterward. “they were goals that changed the momentum, and that hurts.”
Speaking of momentum, Lehtonen’s return could provide a major swing. He was Dallas’ unquestioned MVP through the first quarter of the season and on many shortlists for league MVP. At the time of his injury, the 28-year-old Finn was 13-4-1 with a 2.34 GAA and .926 save percentage — a big reason why Dallas stood atop the Pacific Division for most of October and November.
How Gulutzan works his No. 1 goalie back into the lineup will be intriguing. Lehtonen has been injury-prone throughout his career, yet was ridden exceptionally hard (there’s gotta be a better way to say that) early in the season.
Lehtonen was the goalie of record in 13 of Dallas’ first 15 games, though that might’ve party been due to Gulutzan’s lack of trust in then-backup Andrew Raycroft, who has since been put on waivers.