It's a big loss, as Lehtonen has started 19 of the Stars' first 23 games while posting a 13-4-1 record with a 2.34 goals-against average and .926 save percentage. He was injured Saturday against Phoenix, underwent an MRI on Sunday in Dallas and has been placed on injured reserve.
"Kari will be out at least three weeks," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said after this morning's skate at the Pepsi Center, where his team faces the Colorado Avalanche tonight. "We got some good news on that front as far as the MRI. It's not a high groin pull or anything; it's kind of a low strain, low pull. Those tend to heal a little better, so we're looking at the three-week mark before he can get going again."
Losing Lehtonen puts the onus on Andrew Raycroft, who will start tonight against his former Avalanche teammates. He's winless in five decisions this season with a 3.50 goals-against average and .899 save percentage.
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Lehtonen was injured at 5:31 of the first period Saturday when he stretched to stop a shot by Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Ariz. He needed help getting off the ice and was flown to Dallas to be re-examined after the Stars' 3-0 loss.
Raycroft, 31, finished the game and stopped 33 of 36 shots.
"We have injuries, but we've had them before," Stars center Mike Ribeiro said. "We just have to play our game and work hard, and play together as a team. Everyone can work hard, whether you're a veteran or just coming up from the (AHL), so we have to do that. We had a nice stretch there before Phoenix (going 2-0-1) and we just need to play like that.
"Everyone has confidence in Razor, but we can make it easier on any goalie if we just play like we did in those three games and control the puck and control the play. It's a team game; it's not just the goalie."
Raycroft has been in this position before. He won five of seven decisions during a successful stretch in December last season with a 2.42 GAA and .923 save percentage; Lehtonen missed four of those games with a groin injury.
"There's opportunity here," Gulutzan said. "Guys can lay in their beds at night and say, 'If I could just do this or if I could just do that ... if I could just get (a chance).' Well, you're going to get it now. I think in the next couple of weeks, we'll get a clearer picture of what our team looks like and what our depth looks like. We can talk about it, but now we're going to test it."
The Stars got off to a hot start with 11 wins in their first 14 games, but have been sliding of late, posting a 2-6-1 record in the past nine games to fall into eighth place in the Western Conference.
The Stars and Avalanche split two earlier meetings this season. The Stars won 7-6 in overtime in Dallas on Nov. 4 and the Avalanche won 3-0 in Denver on Nov. 18.
Semyon Varlamov will make his third start in a row in goal for Colorado after stopping 31 of 33 shots Saturday in a 5-2 win against Edmonton. The Avalanche have lost eight of 12 home games this season and haven't won two games in a row since a five-game streak from Oct. 10-17 on the road.