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Lehtonen Day-to-day With Head Injury

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Stars coach Lindy Ruff said goaltender Kari Lehtonen wasn’t doing well today after being injured in a collision in Saturday night’s game against the Minnesota Wild. Lehtonen is being listed as day to day with a head injury.

“We know he’s not doing that well, so we have to make a decision later on today … as far as calling somebody up,” Ruff said after Sunday’s practice.

A few hours later the Stars made the decision, recalling goaltender Cristopher Nilstorp from the Texas Stars of the AHL.

Lehtonen was injured when Wild forward Erik Haula slammed into Lehtonen while driving the net. Lehtonen’s mask came off and his head hit the crossbar. Lehtonen, who suffered a cut to the head, left the game and did not return. Ruff was asked about the specifics of the injury on Sunday.

“It’s just a head injury right now,” Ruff said. “We’ll let him get through the day and see where we are at. It doesn’t look good though.”

With Lehtonen injured, the Stars will turn to Tim Thomas, acquired from Florida at the trade deadline in exchange for goaltender Dan Ellis. Thomas took over in net Saturday night, stopping all six shots he faced and picking up the win as the Stars rallied from a 3-2 deficit to defeat the Wild 4-3.

Thomas, who won a Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011 and won the Vezina Trophy in 2009 and 2011, brings a lot of experience to the table, especially in high pressure situations. That experience should be a boost for the Stars, who are in the thick of a fight to get into the playoffs.

“He’s not your conventional type of goaltender, but we knew that going in,” said Ruff. “He’s a battler, he’s athletic. I think in Tim’s case he has been in the fire before and he knows how to handle it. We’re hopeful that experience can help us.”

Last week, Thomas was out of the playoff picture with Florida. Now, he’s in the playoff hunt with the Stars, and that has him excited.

“The intensity of my last two games here, it’s been fun to be a part of,” Thomas said. “In Florida, we’ve been out of the playoffs for a while. We never really put it together there. For me, [being in a playoff race] makes it easier to play, more fun.”

The Stars got a look at Thomas in a tough situation Saturday night, liked what they saw and that has them feeling they are in good hands whenever Thomas is in goal.

“It’s great. Tim has been through a lot of experiences, which is why we are excited at acquiring him. He’s a veteran guy who has won a Stanley Cup, been in a lot of those positions,” said Stars defenseman Brenden Dillon. “Yesterday, to come into the game (down 3-2 in the third), it’s got to be nerve-racking. After the game when we were talking with him he said, ‘I’ve done that a couple times before.’ I think it is one of those things where experience is really the only way to go into the situations feeling good.”


*There was no word Sunday on the NHL handing out supplemental discipline to Wild forward Erik Haula for the collision with Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen. Haula was given a charging major and a game misconduct on the play.

*Stars coach Lindy Ruff said forward Valeri Nichushkin was fine after taking a hit to the leg from Wild forward Matt Cooke.

“He’s OK,” Ruff said.

*The Stars held an optional practice Sunday. There were ten players on the ice, including goaltender Tim Thomas, forwards Ryan Garbutt, Ray Whitney, Antoine Roussel, Erik Cole, Shawn Horcoff and Cody Eakin and defensemen Brenden Dillon, Kevin Connauton and Aaron Rome.

Also taking part in the practice was Thomas Speer, a local goaltending coach whom the Stars have been using as a third goaltender in practices recently.

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 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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