Stars’ goaltending strategy: Lean on Lehtonen

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The Dallas Stars parted ways with limited backup Andrew Raycroft this summer, but the goaltending plan seems the same as the last two seasons: lots of Kari Lehtonen.

So far, that gamble has worked out better than many expected.

The Atlanta Thrashers selected Lehtonen second overall in 2002, and despite flashes of brilliance, he never really panned out. A fresh start with Dallas revealed why he was so promising in the first place, though.

After a solid first full season, Lehtonen quietly put up the best numbers of his career in 2011-12. The Finnish netminder went 32-22-4 with a strong .922 save percentage and 2.33 GAA.

Despite that great play, the Stars fell short of the playoffs and that campaign also spotlighted his biggest worry: his health.

Lehtonen was limited to 59 appearances last season, 10 fewer than in 2010-11.

Lehtonen missed a bit more than a month of action, which was a significant issue since the Stars didn’t really trust Raycroft. While incoming backup Richard Bachman showed some promise during that time, Dallas needs Lehtonen to pile up starts like a workhorse No. 1.

He’s been much healthier in Dallas, but his long-term history and last season’s groin injury inspires some concern.

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