It’s Official: Lehtonen To Return After Missing 12 Games

Updated: December 30, 2011 at 11:52 am by Alexander Monaghan

According to Mike Heika of The Dallas Morning News, Lehtonen will indeed return tomorrow night against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Remember to take him off IR and slot him back into your lineup.

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UPDATED 12/27/11: A few days ago we were told Kari Lehtonen would return within the week. Following last night’s 5-3 loss in which the combination of Richard Bachman and Andrew Raycroft surrendered four goals, Mark Stepneski of ESPN Dallas decided to follow up with head coach Glen Gulutzan.

“Yeah, he will for sure,” Gulutzan said. “He’s been skating the last few days. He’s very close. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him against Columbus.”

In seven career starts against the Blue Jackets, Lehtonen has a 4-2-1 record with a 1.56 GAA, .948 SV% and one shutout. Check back to see whether he actually draws back into the lineup.

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UPDATE 12/22/11: Less than two weeks ago, coach Glen Gulutzan announced his starting goalie Kari Lehtonen would be sidelined through the Christmas break. However, that may not be the case according to ESPN Dallas’s Mark Stepneski.

Lehtonen returned to practice for the first time and took shots from his teammates. He plans on ramping up his workout tomorrow and to see where he feel from there. Although the former 2nd overall pick thinks December 26th against the St. Louis Blues is a longshot, he could play on the 29th or 31st.

As usual, we expect to keep you updated on Lehtonen’s status moving forward. Check back for a further update from the team.

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UPDATE 12/10/11: For the last two weeks all has been quiet on the Kari Lehtonen injury front. However, coach Glen Gulutzan decided to give an update on his status this afternoon. According to Mike Heika of The Dallas Morning News, via Twitter, Lehtonen will probably return after Christmas.

If you relied on Lehtonen to be your number one then you will need to plug that gaping hole for a little bit longer. Jose Theodore and Ray Emery have been rather popular adds over the last couple of days so check if they are available in your fantasy hockey league.

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UPDATE 11/28/11: According to Mike Heika of The Dallas Morning News, Kari Lehtonen will miss at least three weeks. As a fantasy hockey owner, you can take a few approaches:

  1. Scour the waiver wire for a long-term solution.
  2. Try to trade Lehtonen away.
  3. Keep streaming goalies as you try to stay competitive without your best goalie.

If you chose option number three, the original article below will help. If you chose option #1 or #2 and succeeded, I want to play in your fantasy hockey league next year.

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ORIGINAL ARTICLE POSTED 11/27/11: Last night, I was tasked with writing an article on the early Vezina Trophy candidates over at RLDhockey.net. My finalists were Tim Thomas, Nikolai Khabibulin and of course, Kari Lehtonen. Here’s what I penned while watching the Pittsburgh Penguins battle the Montreal Canadiens.

Lehtonen currently leads all starting goalies in wins as he continues to guide the Dallas Stars to surprising success. In his second season in Dallas, the Finnish netminder has settled in, appearing fully capable of handling a heavy workload. As of this writing, Lehtonen has started 18 of the team’s 22 games, only conceding starts to Andrew Raycroft on select nights.

If his win totals fail to impress, keep in mind the Stars allow the third-most shots in the League with Lehtonen stopping roughly 93 percent of them. In other words, he helps his team win games and has looked stellar, or even elite at times.

Much of his improvement has been attributed to simply better coaching as well. No longer is Lehtonen starting nine of every 10 games, which has given the lanky ‘tender the mental stability to succeed. In addition, working with an actual goalie coach has helped awaken the skill that made him a second overall pick.

Before I could finish my thoughts, or simply clean up my wording, a Derek Morris shot stung Lehtonen and removed him from the game. (Kari was later removed as a finalist, you can see my choices here). We would later find out Lehtonen once again has an injured groin and would be immediately placed on IR, leaving him out of our fantasy hockey moves for at least seven days.

Fear not fantasy hockey GMs, there are some options as we try to piece together our teams.

For one, the internal options aren’t awful. Andrew Raycroft will start on Monday against the Colorado Avalanche — a team he once shut out in four career starts. His new counterpart, Richard Bachman, was phenomenal in the AHL last season, so there is some hope he could succeed at the NHL level. However, I wouldn’t blame you for not liking any of those options.

Five teams — Edmonton, Minnesota, Nashville, Calgary and Colorado — all play four games over the next week. Josh Harding would be a great pickup but it’s highly unlikely he’s available in any competitive fantasy hockey league. From there, Devan Dubnyk and Jean-Sebastien Giguere all have a chance at earning a win. Henrik Karlsson and Anders Lindback may or may not get a start so there remains some risk in picking them up.

Other popular adds include Cory Schneider, Curtis Sanford, Mathieu Garon, Jonas Gustavsson and Raycroft. I would pick any of those available starting goalies up in that order.

Losing a player like Lehtonen is hard for any fantasy hockey team to swallow. As a 7th-8th round pick, gamers got incredible value out of him as he simply kept the Stars in the game. The only thing left to do is look for the next big value and pray that your goalies can help get you through the rest of the week.



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