Dallas likely to sit Lehtonen, give Niemi series debut

AP
2 Comments

Detroit’s done it, and so has Philly.

Anaheim, too.

So why not Dallas?

The Stars will be the latest to make a starting goalie change this postseason — tonight, they’re set to give Antti Niemi the Game 4 nod against Minnesota, after Kari Lehtonen started the first three.

More, from the Morning-News:

Dallas has tried to continue its daily routine to a tee from the regular season, and during the regular season goalies Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen shared the load. So it should be no surprise that Niemi will jump into the net for Game 4 on Wednesday against the Minnesota Wild.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff does not announce his goalies before a game, but Niemi was off the ice first at morning skate and Lehtonen stayed out to work with the scratches. Niemi talked to the media and said he is ready to go.

Lehtonen started the series strong, posting a 22-save shutout in the opener, and followed that up with 25 saves on 26 shots in a Game 2 victory.

Game 3, however, wasn’t as good.

Lehtonen allowed four goals on 24 shots in the loss — Dallas’ first of the series — but it sounds like the decision to go to Niemi tonight isn’t so much about Lehtonen’s performance.

It’s about keeping the rotation going.

Dallas GM Jim Nill identified goalie depth as one of his major offseason initiatives, and he set about addressing it by acquiring Niemi from San Jose at the draft, then inking him to a three-year, $13.5M deal. The plan was to have two No. 1 goalies, and let them share the workload.

Between Niemi’s and Lehtonen’s cap hits, the Stars allotted more than $10 million on goaltending this season.

While neither Finn was terrific, both did enough to pace Dallas to top spot in the Western Conference. What’s more, both have said all the right things about playing in and maintaining a goalie timeshare — yes, even in the playoffs.

“I think it can work,” Lehtonen said, per the Morning-News. “If we get to go all the way, I’m sure there will be a series that one goalie plays a more dominant role and kind of takes over.

“But the thing with our situation is it can change quickly, too. You just have to be ready to go.”