Kari Lehtonen

Kari Lehtonen: Tonight’s other red-hot goalie


Ilya Bryzgalov will naturally gain a big chunk of tonight’s spotlight among red-hot goalies, but Dallas Stars workhorse Kari Lehtonen isn’t far behind. The Finnish netminder earned his second shutout in a row as the Stars outlasted the Minnesota Wild by the paper-thin margin of 1-0 on Tuesday.

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If you take a longer view on things, the “hottest goalie” argument likely extends to Lehtonen vs. Ryan Miller. Mark Stepneski points out that Lehtonen is 8-0-1 with a 1.29 GAA and ridiculous .955 save percentage in his last nine starts.

All those debates aside, the bottom line is that the Stars continue to strengthen their hold on the top spot in the Pacific Division. Dallas is currently at 83 points with 12 games left, leaving them four points ahead of second place Phoenix. (The San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings are currently in action, but at best, the Sharks will reach 79 points and the Kings can finish with no more than 78.)

The Stars have won six games in a row and are 10-0-1 in their last 11 contests. It remains to be seen if they can hang on to the division lead and the third seed that comes with it, but the odds are easily in favor of them advancing to the postseason.

To outside observers, that would be a big enough accomplishment, yet Lehtonen’s play might generate some bolder dreams.

Panarin impresses ‘Hawks with his preseason debut

Artemi Panarin
AP Photo

Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.

Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.

“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.

The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.

Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.

Gustavsson secures one-year contract with Bruins

Jonas Gustavsson
AP Photo
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There was stiff competition for the backup goaltending job in Boston, but with a signing this afternoon, it seems likely that the matter has been resolved.

The Boston Bruins announced that Jonas Gustavsson has agreed to a one-year, $700,000 deal. It’s a one-way contract, according to the Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin.

That contract is still small enough that the Bruins could bury it in the minors if they so desire, but it does set him apart from his last competitor for the goalie position, Jeremy Smith, who has a two-way deal. The fact that Boston went this route seems to imply that Gustavsson will serve as Tuukka Rask‘s understudy, although both netminders attended Sunday’s practice.

In Smith, the Bruins would be getting a 26-year-old goaltender who was dominant with the AHL’s Providence Bruins last season, but has no NHL experience. By contrast Gustavsson, 30, has played in almost 150 NHL games.

Boston sent Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban to the minors last week, but an argument could be made that either one of them is worthy of the backup job. However, both of them have a lot of potential and it’s not surprising that the Bruins felt they were better served by staying in the minors where they can play regularly and focus on honing their game.