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Monday Update: Lehtonen Close, Could be Ready Tuesday

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars practiced in Winnipeg Monday and the focus was on defense after Sunday night’s 7-2 to the Jets.

The seven goals against matched a season-worst for the Stars, who were plagued by costly turnovers and defensive lapses. The Stars talked about the issues, looked at video and addressed the issues in Monday’s on-ice session.

“Talked about our play away from the puck, which I didn’t think we were committed enough. We didn’t win enough wall battles and we made some big mistakes that we haven’t been making,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We went through the video, reinforced where we needed to be. Our opening drill was D zone positioning, talked about the puck support we need, our second man in the D zone which I thought at times he got there too slow.

“It reminded me a lot of coming out of Colorado (6-2 loss in December), where halfway through the game we didn’t play very well defensively and this was a mirror image of what we did there.”

Ruff and his players said they’ll have to put Sunday night’s game behind them. They have two more big games on the road trip, starting with Tuesday’s tilt in Pittsburgh and then it will be Philadelphia on Thursday.

The Stars still hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and with a game in hand on Phoenix, which is tied with the Stars at 75 points, and the advantage in the regulation/overtime wins tiebreaker, they still control their own destiny in the race.

“We’ve got 15 games left. We’re still in a good spot,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “We hold our own fate here and we’ve got to move on and get ready for next game.”

Lehtonen close to returning, Nilstorp assigned to Texas

Kari Lehtonen went through another practice Monday and appears ready to return from the concussion that has kept him out since March 8.

“I thought Kari had a good day,” Ruff said. “He got a good day’s skate today and tomorrow morning will tell the tale, but I think he is real close.”

Lehtonen is close enough that the Stars sent goaltender Cristopher Nilstorp, who has been backing up Tim Thomas, to the American Hockey League on Monday.

Stars center Vernon Fiddler did not skate Monday, but it sounds as if he should be able to play Tuesday in Pittsburgh.

“Just a maintenance day,” Ruff said. “It shouldn’t be an issue.”

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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