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Pacific: Lehtonen changes Dallas crease dynamics

by John Kreiser
The Dallas Stars are banking on Kari Lehtonen as their goaltender of the future.

Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk beat the pre-Olympic trade deadline when he acquired the 26-year-old Finn from Atlanta Tuesday night. Nieuwendyk was so eager to land Lehtonen that he was willing to deal defensive prospect Ivan Vishnevskiy and a fourth-round pick in June's Entry Draft, despite the fact Lehtonen hasn't played in an NHL game this season. He's been idled with a back injury that required surgery and rehab.

Lehtonen, the No. 2 pick in the 2002 draft, has appeared in 204 career NHL games, earning a 94-83-17 record with a 2.87 goals-against-average and 14 shutouts. His career save percentage of 91.2 percent ranks 16th among the 44 active goalies with 100 or more games played.??????

"Kari Lehtonen is a proven elite goaltender," Nieuwendyk said. "We are very excited to add him to our hockey club."??????

The Stars hope Lehtonen is ready to play -- he recently completed a four-game conditioning assignment with the AHL Chicago Wolves and has been activated for NHL duty.

"He was picked second overall for a reason," Nieuwendyk said. "When healthy, he is a world-class goaltender. He is 26, and is entering the prime of his career."

And what of longtime starter Marty Turco, who's 34, has had his ups and downs over the past two seasons and becomes a free agent this summer?

Nieuwendyk told the Dallas Morning News that he doesn't expect Lehtonen to see any action until after the Olympic break, meaning that the starting job is still Turco's -- for now.

"I talked to him and I told him that I believe it's still his net right now," Nieuwendyk said of Turco. "We had four unrestricted free agent goalies heading into the summer, and we needed to get some kind of plan for our future, so this is just one part of the process.

"Marty has played very well these past four games, and I imagine he will continue to play," Nieuwendyk told the paper in a phone interview Tuesday night. "He's a professional, and I know that's how he will respond."

Painful victory -- The good part of Monday night for the Anaheim Ducks was that they beat the Los Angeles Kings for their 10th-consecutive victory at the Honda Center. The bad part was that No. 1 center Ryan Getzlaf hurt his ankle and had to leave the game.

The injury looked bad, but after an MRI on Tuesday, Getzlaf said he hoped to be back in the lineup this weekend, when the Ducks finish the pre-Olympic portion of their schedule with two games in Alberta.

"Skating Friday or Saturday is our goal right now," Getzlaf told the team's Web site on Wednesday while wearing a walking boot with an electrical stimulation device attached. "Hopefully I can play Sunday or even Saturday, for that matter. Those definitely are the goals right now, to progress this week, stay off it for the next couple of days, then maybe put the skates on Friday or Saturday."

Getzlaf sprained the ankle in the second period of the win over the Kings, but said the way the ankle feels now is in sharp contrast to what he was experiencing after leaving the ice. ??????????????????"When I first suffered the injury it was a lot of pain and a pretty big scare for me, obviously, with the situation we're in with the Ducks and trying to push for a playoff spot and finish strong before the break and obviously with the Olympics coming up," he said. "Right now it's a lot better. I'm walking without pain. Obviously, I have the boot on still, but that's just protecting it and making sure I don't do any more damage."

Ducks fans aren't the only ones concerned about Getzlaf's ankle. He's a member of Team Canada and knows he has to prove to Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman that he's ready to go when the Games start next week.

"Obviously, going into the Olympics, I do need to skate, I do need to play or have a hard practice to show them I'm ready to play," Getzlaf said. "In a short tournament like that, you can't afford to go in injured."

Stoked for Stockholm -- No one was more excited to hear the Sharks would be opening the 2010-11 season in Stockholm than San Jose defenseman Douglas Murray.??????????????????????????????????????????????????????

The 29-year-old Swede is pumped up to be able to play regulation NHL games in front of friends and family when the Sharks and Columbus Blue Jackets open the season at the Ericsson Globe Arena as part of the 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere. In all, six teams will be opening their seasons in Europe.??????????????????????????????????????????????????????

"It's not just going to Europe, we're gong to Stockholm," Murray told the Sharks' Web site. "It's very exciting for me for a couple of reasons. It will be a treat to show the team my home and I will get to play in front of family and friends."??????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Murray said he knows the Globe Arena well -- it is one of the world's largest spherical buildings.??????????????????????????????????????????????????????

"It looks like a golf ball," said Murray, while also noting the facility is definitely of NHL quality.??????????????????????????????????????????????????????

He said the crowds will definitely fill the house.

"There will be plenty of people," Murray said. "The tickets will be in high demand."

Murray was the Sharks' lone Swede until last weekend, when San Jose acquired defenseman Niclas Wallin from Carolina in a deal that cost them a second-round draft pick.

Phoenix to Prague -- The Phoenix Coyotes will open the 2010-11 season a long way from the desert -- they'll be playing two games against the Boston Bruins in Prague on Oct. 9-10 as part of the 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere, which will feature a record six teams opening in Europe.

The Czech Republic is a logical place to send the Coyotes. Phoenix's roster includes defenseman Zbynek Michalek and forwards Petr Prucha, Martin Hanzal, Robert Lang and Radim Vrbata.

It's the first trip to Europe for the Coyotes franchise since 1984, when the then-Winnipeg Jets traveled to Finland for a preseason tournament.

Around the Pacific -- One area in which new goaltender Kari Lehtonen could help Dallas is in shootouts. He is 20-8 all-time in the tie-breakers; the Stars' 4-3 loss at Chicago on Tuesday was their eighth shootout loss of the season. … The Stars got a boost in that game with the return of center Mike Ribeiro, who had missed 15 games with a throat contusion after taking a stick in the throat in New York in early January. Ribeiro made a quick impact, scoring just 8:27 into the game. … It took nearly a week, but goaltender Vesa Toskala finally joined the Anaheim Ducks last weekend. Anaheim acquired Toskala and Jason Blake in the deal that sent Jean-Sebastien Giguere to Toronto on Jan. 31, but he had to clear immigration before joining the team. … San Jose helped itself on defense by landing veteran Niclas Wallin, who waived his no-trade clause to come to the Sharks from Carolina. "I want to win championships and (the Sharks) are one of the best teams this year," said Wallin, who owns a Stanley Cup ring he won with the 2006 Hurricanes. "I opened my contract to come here." … Phoenix forward Scottie Upshall won't be back until next season after undergoing this week in Birmingham, Ala., to repair a torn ACL in his right knee. The injury on Jan. 20 derailed the best season of the 26-year-old's career; he was leading the team with 18 goals, a career high. … With a record of 36-19-5 through 60 games, the Coyotes have the most wins through the first 60 games of a season in franchise history. Their previous best was 32 wins in 60 games (1986-87 and 1999-00). … Los Angeles entered the final four days before the Olympic break with a 20-8-3 record in one-goal games -- more than half of the Kings' 59 games were decided by a single goal. … Goaltender Jonathan Quick, who was in goal for all nine victories during the Kings' winning streak, is one victory away from matching Mario Lessard's single-season franchise record of 35 wins, set in 1980-81.
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