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At the Rink blog

Lehtonen's return 'huge' for Stars' playoff hopes

Thursday, 04.18.2013 / 1:45 PM

By Steve Hunt - NHL.com Correspondent / 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

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2012-2013 At the Rink blog
Lehtonen's return 'huge' for Stars' playoff hopes

DALLAS -- Richard Bachman filled in admirably between the pipes for the Dallas Stars after a groin injury to starter Kari Lehtonen in the first period of a 5-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings on April 9 forced him to leave the ice five minutes before the first intermission.

Bachman went 3-1-0 during that stretch with a 1.88 goals-against average and .936 save percentage. However, Lehtonen is now healthy and will return to the net for Dallas on Thursday night against the Vancouver Canucks at American Airlines Center.

Anytime a player many in the Stars room call their team MVP returns, it's definitely a good thing.

"It's huge," Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas said. "I think [Bachman] played unbelievable. Played three great games, but for sure, Kari has been our MVP so far this year in my mind. He's been very good. He's won some games for us. When you get a goalie like that back in the net, for sure you get a little boost."

Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan agrees Bachman performed well on a fill-in basis for Lehtonen, but at a time of year when the sheer importance of every shift and goal is magnified because a Stanley Cup Playoff spot is at stake, there's nothing better than getting your No. 1 netminder back for the stretch run.

"I thought [Bachman] did a heck of a job. If you look at the body of work, he got three out of four and played well," Gulutzan said. "That's what put us in a position to keep moving here. Now Kari's got to come in and take over. It's good to get one of your top players back. Goaltending's important this time of year. Everybody knows that."

Dallas defenseman Trevor Daley missed Wednesday's practice with an upper-body injury but went through Thursday's morning skate with no issue and will be on the Stars blue line alongside Robidas.

Cory Schneider will start between the pipes for the Canucks, who can clinch a playoff spot for a fifth straight season with a victory, something definitely on the mind of Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault.

"Well, I know that we're going to be meeting a team with the utmost desperation tonight. They [the Stars] can't afford to lose any more," Vigneault said. "So that same desperation that we just faced against St. Louis we're going to see tonight here from Dallas. For us, it's an opportunity for what has been a very challenging year personnel wise to get a check mark by our name and officially get in the playoffs. I know we're going to go out there and do everything we can do to get that check mark."

Here are the projected lineups:

CANUCKS

Henrik SedinAlexandre BurrowsDaniel Sedin

Derek RoyRyan KeslerJannik Hansen

Zack KassianAndrew EbbettMason Raymond

Dale WeiseMaxim LapierreTom Sestito

Cam BarkerAlexander Edler

Dan HamhuisJason Garrison

Keith BallardAndrew Alberts

Cory Schneider

Roberto Luongo

Scratched: Derek Joslin, Steven Pinizzotto

Injured: Kevin Bieksa (lower body), David Booth (ankle), Chris Higgins (knee), Manny Malhotra (eye), Christopher Tanev (lower body)

STARS

Ray WhitneyJamie BennLoui Eriksson

Reilly SmithCody EakinRyan Garbutt

Eric NystromVernon FiddlerErik Cole

Antoine RousselTom WandellMatt Fraser

Trevor Daley - Stephane Robidas

Brenden Dillon - Alex Goligoski

Aaron RomePhilip Larsen

Kari Lehtonen

Richard Bachman

Scratched: Jordie Benn

Injured: Alex Chiasson (shoulder), Lane MacDermid (chest)

Quote of the Day

They said, 'You're going to love the city. It's smaller than Philadelphia, but you're going to love it. You're going to love the fans. Just watching the playoffs last year, the fans seemed louder there than they did anywhere. I'm really excited about that.

— Forward Scott Hartnell on his upcoming season with the Columbus Blue Jackets