After missing nearly two weeks with a groin injury, goalie Kari Lehtonen made his return to the Dallas Stars lineup on Thursday night against the Calgary Flames. Lehtonen was brilliant for the Stars in his return as he stopped 29 of the 30 shots he faced en route to a 5-1 victory.
Getting Lehtonen back may be the boost the Stars need going forward too. Dallas is sitting at the bottom of the Central division and only the Edmonton Oilers is below them in the conference. For a team with playoff expectations, this isn’t the position they thought they would be in nearly a month into the season.
After a disappointing opening part of the season, Lehtonen might be the jump-start they need. Since joining the Stars, the winning percentage with him in the lineup is .564 as opposed to .488 without him in there. The goals-against-average is 2.60 for Kari and 3.06 for anybody else in net. The numbers don’t lie when it comes to Lehtonen and his effect on the Stars team.
With the Stars trying to figure out the perfect line combinations that fit into coach Lindy Ruff‘s system, it’s imperative that the goalie position remains stable. Obviously Lehtonen won’t start every game and the reserves will get some time, but he will get the majority of the starts. When he does start, it’s important that he is great between the pipes. The goalie position is one spot they do not need to worry about and if Lehtonen plays like he did against Calgary in his return, the Stars will be fine.