Kari Lehtonen started the season with a flourish before being sidelined with a groin injury on Nov. 26. After watching 12 games from the press box, Lehtonen will return to the ice on Thursday as the Dallas Stars begin a three-game homestand against the Columbus Blue Jackets. "Lehts is ready to go, so he'll get the start," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan told the Dallas Morning News.
"I think it's the right time to do this, and he's ready." Lehtonen has already claimed two victories over the NHL's worst club and boasts a 4-2-1 career mark with a 1.56 goals-against average versus the Blue Jackets, who are mired in a six-game losing skid. Lehtonen's return will also provide Richard Bachman with a breather.
The rookie had started the Stars' last eight games and posted a 5-2-0 mark, but yielded a pair of soft goals during the Stars' 5-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Monday.
Columbus Blue Jackets (9-22-5): Columbus has obviously struggled this season, but its issues away from Nationwide Arena are even more pronounced. The Blue Jackets are just 3-12-2 on the road this season, with G Steve Mason dropping all eight of his road decisions with a 4.80 goals-against average. Mason did play well in Tuesday's 2-1 shootout loss to the Calgary Flames, turning aside 25 shots. Fellow G Curtis Sanford is being plagued by a right hip injury and is listed as day-to-day.
Dallas Stars (20-14-1): RW Michael Ryder is riding a five-game goal streak and has scored in both contests against Columbus this season. C Mike Ribeiro scored on Monday and has collected at least a point in six of his last seven games. Riberio had a strong hand in upending the Blue Jackets on Oct. 15 when he notched three assists. With Lehtonen activated, the Stars placed G Andrew Raycroft on waivers with a likely stop in the American Hockey League if he goes unclaimed.
Despite being demoted to the fourth
line, Columbus C Derick Brassard netted his fourth goal of the season - and
second in four games.
2. Stars Ds Sheldon Souray and Stephane Robidas will be sidelined for 10-14 days apiece. Souray is nursing a sprained ankle and Robidas sustained a setback in his recovery from a foot injury.
NHL PREDICTION: Stars 5, Blue Jackets 2Columbus Blue Jackets
stephane robidas - american airlines center - andrew raycroft - columbus blue jackets - curtis sanford - dallas stars - glen gulutzan - kari lehtonen - michael ryder - mike ribeiro