GAME DAY: at Dallas
Jackets looking for a road win in the Lone Star state
Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Dallas Stars
WATCH: FOX Sports Ohio (HD) | LISTEN: 97.1 The Fan & BlueJackets.com
GAME DAY ON THE ROAD presented by:
|Despite losing their No. 1 goaltender to injury and having to dig down their depth chart to get scoring, the Dallas Stars have kept themselves afloat in the Western Conference playoff picture. Kari Lehtonen, who currently owns a 13-4-1 record as the Stars top netminder, has been sidelined since Nov. 26 with a lower-body injury but is expected to make his return tonight against the Blue Jackets.
Since being acquired from the Atlanta Thrashers in a Feb. 2010 trade, Lehtonen has assumed the reins in Dallas and back-stopped the Stars to stingy goals-against averages.
One would have thought the Stars may struggle without Lehtonen, but thankfully, GM Joe Nieuwendyk has assembled quite the goaltending pipeline. Dallas recalled Richard Bachman from Texas (AHL) the day after Lehtonen went on IR, and he became the first goaltender in Stars franchise history to win his first three career NHL starts. Bachman went on to start the next seven games for Dallas, posting a 5-2-0 record and a 2.76 goals-against average.
For the Blue Jackets to have success against the Stars tonight, they need to carry over the five-man game they played Tuesday night vs. Calgary and apply it in Dallas. Coach Scott Arniel said he plans to keep his top lines together for tonight’s game, and wants to see how they handle the tight-checking Stars.
Arniel thought Lehtonen was the difference in a 3-2 Stars win at Nationwide Arena on Oct. 18, and his 38 saves back up that statement. The Blue Jackets must also deal with a Stars lineup that can generate offense from any of its four lines, and that’s been a trademark of coach Glen Gulutzan’s team so far this year.
The Stars have five players with at least 25 points and Jamie Benn leads the way at 32 (9G ,23 A). Free-agent pickup Michael Ryder is following a solid run to the Stanley Cup last summer with a team-leading total of 14 goals for the Stars. Dallas is without defensemen Sheldon Souray and Stephane Robidas for up to two weeks due to injuries.