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Goaltending coach Jeff Reese talks Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

New Dallas Stars goaltending coach Jeff Reese is in town this week working with prospects at the team’s development camp. Reese, who was hired last month, spent some time with the media Tuesday talking about the Stars’ goaltending situation. Among the topics was the plan to have Antti Niemi, acquired from San Jose late last month, and Kari Lehtonen share the net this coming season. Here’s some of what Reese had to say.

On his assessment of the goaltending situation in Dallas

“Obviously, when I took the job I knew Kari was here and Antti wasn’t yet. Right now, we’ve got two veteran guys. It’s going to make my job a lot easier, and it’s a nice situation for me to come into, no question. You’ve got two No. 1 goalies that can play a lot of games and give you a chance to win every night. I am pretty excited about it.”

On managing two goaltenders who are used to playing a lot of games

“Certainly it is going to be an adjustment for both of them. I am not going to sit here and say that one of them is going to be happy playing 35 games or 40 games. They both want to play. But saying that, it’s a team game, and I have read some of Jim [Nill’s] quotes and I agree 100 percent – although I haven’t experienced it – that the travel here is very tough. There is a lot of back-to-back games, a lot of travel, and it would be nice to have a fresh goalie in there. Hopefully, they are going to work well together. They know each other. I am going to have to learn a little Finnish. But like I said, it’s a team game, and they are going to have to put their egos aside here. It’s all about winning and making the playoffs. It’s going to be a friendly and good competition. They are going to push each other and help each other, too, I hope. I hope that is going to be the situation, and they help each other get better.”

On if he has ever had to deal with a situation like this

“This is a little bit different. I’ve dealt with two younger guys that are trying to find their ways to being No. 1 goalies, but never two proven No. 1 guys. So, it’s a little bit different situation. I think it is a great situation for me. I am excited about the challenge. I am excited about winning, and the team going in the right direction and making the playoffs and having two guys that can win you games.”

On how he will work with Mike Valley, who has moved into the Director of Goaltending Development position

“We are working together right now (at development camp), we are on the ice and we are going to try to help each other out, obviously. His role is going to change a little bit. He is going to work with the kids, and he’s going to be in [Cedar Park] and he is going to work with the junior kids. Most of my time will be spent here.”

On if he’s watched any of Lehtonen’s play last season and how did he assess it

“I’ve watched some games. It’s funny you asked that because we are just setting up some video now, and I am going to watch some more as we go along here. Then I have to get to know both of them. I don’t know them. That’s an important part of what we do, establishing a relationship and gaining some trust. And if you want to make some changes – the way I coach – I’ll suggest things, and they can try them. If they like them, great. If not, we’ll find another way. That’s the way I coach. But the main thing is just to get to know them a little bit and go from there.”

On re-instilling confidence or getting a goaltender like Lehtonen back to form after an anomaly of a season

“I was asked if I watched some tape and I have watched a little bit of tape. I am going to have a few different ideas for Kari and as far as instilling confidence, that is part of my job. It is to be there and support him, support Antti, support Jack [Campbell] and support all of the guys in the system. Having played the position, I understand that sometimes it is a lonely position, and you need to have somebody behind you. You need to have that support. I’ll be there for a lot of support. I hear everybody talk about Kari’s year and how bad he was, but he still had 34 wins. You look at a guy like Steve Mason (Flyers goaltender), who had great numbers but only had 18 wins. I look at things a little bit differently. Now I know there are areas for improvement from what I hear and even Kari admits it himself. But 34 wins is not that bad a year. I know the numbers we want to get better. There will be a lot of pressure when he plays this year. Like I said, I hope they can push each other and help each other.”

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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