If the Dallas Stars are going to reach the playoffs, Kari Lehtonen figures to play a major role. Lehtonen will get the start Monday night when the Stars finish their season series against the visiting Winnipeg Jets.
Desperation figures to be setting in for both teams in the Western Conference playoff picture. Dallas (33-26-11) trails Phoenix by two points for the second and final wild-card spot, while Winnipeg (32-31-9) is six points back.
Stars head coach Lindy Ruff usually doesn't announce who will start in goal the day before a game, but has already tabbed Lehtonen for Monday with a game at Chicago on tap Tuesday. Lehtonen, who made 26 saves in Saturday's 3-1 win over Ottawa, is 3-0-1 with a 1.64 goals-against-average in four career starts against the Jets franchise.
"I got a couple of good bounces and a couple of posts and the end result was good," Lehtonen said about Sunday's win.
The move isn't surprising since Lehtonen helped Dallas end a four-game slide in which it conceded 16 goals in the last three defeats. He had missed four of five games before Saturday due to a concussion.
"I am just going game by game but, obviously, with Kari coming back, being fresh and looking like he did last night, he is going to get the start for us," Ruff told the Stars' official website.
Stars centre Tyler Seguin has 15 points during an eight-game run and has nine points in four games in the season series with Winnipeg.
Stars winger Erik Cole's status is uncertain after he sat out against the Senators with an upper-body injury that ended his consecutive games streak at 269.
"Erik is just day to day," Ruff said. "Hopefully, he can push through, but it is the same thing he dealt with earlier in the year."
While the Stars are looking for a boost with Lehtonen getting back in a rhythm, the Jets remain without their No. 1 goalie. Ondrej Pavelec will miss a fifth straight game with a lower-body injury.
Al Montoya has posted a 2.76 GAA in his last four games. He blamed himself after a 29-save performance in Saturday's 3-2 home defeat to Carolina.
"I didn't make the saves I needed to make and, at the end of the day, that cost us the game," Montoya said.
Montoya's four-game stretch of starts began when he made 25 saves in a 7-2 rout of the Stars on March 16. Dustin Byfuglien had two goals and one assist and Blake Wheeler had four assists.
That contest remains fresh in the Stars' minds.
"We went into their building and they took advantage of us, so this is a good opportunity for us to return the favour," Stars defenceman Trevor Daley said.
Winnipeg is beginning a five-game trip. The Jets received some good news Saturday with the return of Byfuglien and Jim Slater from injuries.
"They've been a pretty resilient group and found a way to come back," Jets head coach Paul Maurice said. "The compete is always there on that next night after a tough one, so we're expecting the same."