GLENDALE, Ariz. – Three weeks ago, the Dallas Stars were healthy, happy and the hottest team in hockey.
Since then, the Stars have lost their mojo, their lead in the Pacific Division and now – among many others – their star goaltender.
Kari Lehtonen, who was 11-1 in his first 12 starts this year and among the quarter-pole leaders in the Vezina Trophy race, suffered a groin injury just over five minutes into Saturday's 3-0 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes. Backup Andrew Raycroft, who has struggled so far this season (0-5), took over.
But the Stars not only lost the game and their No. 1 goalie, but defenseman Trevor Daley (back) and center Vernon Fiddler (groin) were also injured before the long night was over.
Fiddler is listed as day-to-day, but both Lehtonen and Daley will miss at least Monday's game at Colorado and will join an ever-lengthening injury list that now includes at least six regulars. The Stars played Saturday without captain Brendan Morrow (back), winger Adam Burish (hand) and defenseman Alex Goligoski (thumb) and the Stars finished the game with 11 forwards, five defensemen and one goalie.
"The injuries didn't help. When you go down a goalie, and then down to five 'D' in the first four minutes … it's pretty tough against a team that works so hard down low," Raycroft said. "They kind of took it to us a little bit at times during the night. We just have to let it go and get the next one."
Raycroft was 5-2 when Lehtonen went down with an injury last December, didn't play badly against the Coyotes. But he didn't get a lot of help from his tired and shorthanded teammates, who had lost in a shootout to Toronto on Friday.
"I've been a starter in this League and to be honest, feel more comfortable with it most of the time," Raycroft said. "You can get into a bit of a rhythm. I don't know how it's going to play out here, but it looks like I'll get a couple of games in a row and it will be nice to feel a rhythm and get ready better. I'm looking forward to that."
Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan said the Stars are very confident in the former Calder Trophy winner.
"Razor has been the guy before and that's why we got him -- to have a situation where we felt like we have two good goalies," he said. "He's going to be the guy Monday for sure and if he has to carry the ball for a week, I have no problems having him do that and I don't think he does, either."
The injuries aren't the only problems for the Stars. After starting the season 11-3-0, they are now 2-6-1 since and have been shut out three times in the last seven games -- this time by a former teammate as Mike Smith made 26 saves Saturday night.
"We've got to do the little things right," said defenseman Stephane Robidas, who collided with Raycroft on a play that led to Phoenix's first goal by Mikkel Boedker. "We can't beat ourselves up. We've got to support each other, play hard for one another and as a five-man unit as much as possible."