Stars lean heavily on Lehtonen

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Much of the optimism surrounding the Dallas Stars focuses on a bright future. If you’re looking for reasons to feel positive about the present, you’d likely be best served to start in net.

Quiet Star

It’s strange to call the second pick of a draft* an “under the radar” player, but that seems appropriate for Stars’ franchise guy Kari Lehtonen.

The 29-year-old has dazzled at times between his days with the Stars and Atlanta Thrashers, yet he has just two playoff games on his resume. Injuries and weak supporting casts have mired him in relative obscurity despite¬†putting up nice numbers. (He’s had at least a .911 save percentage since the 2006-07 season.)

For the last few seasons, the Stars’ fate has been tied to Lehtonen’s play, and that will likely remain the same in 2013-14.

On the bright side, Dallas finally gave him a capable backup in Dan Ellis.

Dan Ellis problem solver

The 33-year-old might be best remembered for generating an Internet meme or two, but he’s an experienced No. 2 guy who isn’t likely to generate many goalie controversies. Think of him as the Martin Biron to Lehtonen’s Henrik Lundqvist.

While the Stars’ defense seems like it could be strong in the big picture, it’s probable that the franchise will hope that its goalies can clean up messes most nights next season. The good news is that they have a duo with a strong chance of getting that done.

* – Lehtonen went No. 2 in 2002, behind Rick Nash and right before Jay Bouwmeester.

More Dallas Stars day at PHT

Defense shows promise

Tyler Seguin is the wildcard

Center of change

Video: Crosby slash leaves Methot’s finger bloodied and injured (Updated)

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Sidney Crosby has made news lately for his goal scoring and his use of the stick.

He speared Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly below the belt the other night, and on Thursday he delivered a slash to Senators defenseman Marc Methot, who has since not returned to the game.

The slash rendered a finger on Methot’s left hand bloodied and injured. It certainly didn’t look good as Method (calmly) skated to the bench.

There was no call on the play.

Updated: Methot won’t return to this game.

Show me the money! Nylander sets Leafs rookie record with latest assist

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Toronto’s talented rookies were back at it again Thursday, as William Nylander and Auston Matthews combined to set up the Maple Leafs’ first goal versus the New Jersey Devils.

Nylander added the second assist on the power play goal, giving him 35 helpers on the season.

That’s significant for a couple of reasons: He extends his point streak to 10 games, which sets a new Leafs rookie record. And the assist reportedly secured him another entry-level bonus:

Not bad.

Gibson (lower-body injury) will play again this regular season, says Carlyle

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The Anaheim Ducks have been without goalie John Gibson for almost two full weeks because of injury, but head coach Randy Carlyle provided reason for optimism on Thursday.

Per reports, Gibson took part in practice and Carlyle has said that his No. 1 netminder will play again during the regular season. Anaheim has nine games remaining on its schedule.

That’s good news for Anaheim heading into the post-season.

While Gibson has been out, Jonathan Bernier has stepped beyond his back-up role and provided solid goaltending for the Ducks during the stretch drive — which should also be a bonus for this club with the playoffs quickly approaching.

Bernier has wins in six of his last seven starts. In nine games this month, he has only twice allowed three goals or more.

The Ducks have fought their way back into contention for the Pacific Division with a recent surge that has coincided with San Jose’s current skid — only four wins in their last 10 games and four straight losses.

Related: Career back on track, Bernier hopes he can re-sign in Anaheim

Report: IIHF needs NHL’s Olympic decision by end of April

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The Winter Olympics are less than a year away and time is ticking on the NHL to make a decision — one way or another.

From TSN.ca:

International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel tells The Associated Press he needs to know by the end of April whether NHL players will be cleared to play in the South Korea Olympics next year.

NHL team owners have made it clear they don’t want to stop their season again for the Winter Games and put their stars at risk of injury. The reluctance has come up before and yet the NHL has participated in the Olympics since 1998. This time, however, there seems to be an impasse.

For those hoping NHL players will compete in South Korea next year, the situation right now appears bleak, given the recent comments of commissioner Gary Bettman, who told Reuters that “…people should assume we are not going.”

Bettman has also argued the compressed schedule that accompanies the league’s participation in the Olympics is bad for the NHL.

Read more: Fehr: Players won’t negotiate with NHL over Olympics

Meanwhile, a number of players — Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Jakub Voracek and rising star Connor McDavid among them — have publicly lobbied for the opportunity to once again compete in the Olympics, adding that having the world’s best players there is a benefit to growing the game.

(In McDavid’s case, he has never played in the Olympics, but given his stature as arguably the league’s best player right now in only his second season, he’d be a shoe-in to make Team Canada if healthy.)

Voracek recently sounded off the matter, essentially calling the league’s position, “Absolutely ridiculous.”