Dallas Stars: Kari Lehtonen

Stars rising quickly in the loaded West

September, 8, 2014
Sep 8
9:23
AM CT
Valeri Nichushkin Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsValeri Nichuskin appears ready to take a big step in his second year in the NHL, says Stars GM Jim Nill.
In a league where one of the most common refrains is that it’s next to impossible to acquire top-end centers, Jim Nill picked up Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza just over a year on the job as general manager in Dallas.

Mercy.

No wonder the Stars are a trendy pick ahead of this season to continue their onward climb in the tough Western Conference.

"I think Dallas is ready to take a leap in with the big boys,’’ one Eastern Conference GM told ESPN.com last week.

"It's no surprise to anyone in the Western Conference that watched Jim Nill and his staff quietly weave his magic in Detroit ... that the same culture of excellence is evolving quickly in Dallas through solid drafting and astute trades and FA signings,’’ another rival Western Conference team executive told ESPN.com via email.

"Another contender in the West."

The forward combinations may very well change, but for now, the thought of having Seguin reconnect his magic with stud winger Jamie Benn and having Spezza and fellow newcomer Ales Hemsky continue what they began late last season in Ottawa certainly provides Dallas with an awesome top-two line attack.

Then again, the Stars weren’t alone in stocking up in the West. The Blues got better, the Ducks got better, and the list goes on as the Western Conference arms race continues.

"That was the message to the players at the end of the year last season, 'We've got to get better,’’’ Nill told ESPN.com last week. "I went through every team in the conference, and they’re all getting better. So we have to get better, too. With that comes expectations, if you want to be a winner, if you have to learn how to deal with that.’’

But it’s all good, Nill said. It’s a good kind of pressure. And the market in Dallas has responded after the Stars made it into the playoffs last season for the first time since 2008 and followed up with the big Spezza trade.

"Our season-ticket base is up. I know our season-ticket and marketing people have had a great summer. There’s a nice buzz down here,’’ Nill said.

Stars spokesman Tom Holy said the team right now has gone from about 6,000 season tickets last season to more than 10,000, and the hope is that they can use this month with camp opening to push that up to 12,000.

[+] EnlargeTyler Seguin
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsTyler Seguin is part of what should be a dynamic offense in Dallas this season.
Those fans should see an improved Valeri Nichushkin, the 19-year-old Russian who electrified at times in his rookie NHL season and now has an important year under his belt.

"I think Nichushkin is going to be even better,” said Nill, not one for hyperbole. "Last year was just a brand-new year for him, for a kid who’s 18 to come over here and go through the NHL not knowing the language, the rinks. He stayed here all summer, trained here, his English got better, so I think you’ll see a big step from him.’’

Where the critics wonder about the Stars’ viability as true contender is on the back end. On paper, the blue-line corps doesn’t stack up with Los Angeles, Chicago, Anaheim or St. Louis.

And yet, that’s exactly the area where Nill feels much improvement is coming.

"I’m excited about our young defensemen, we have a group of young defensemen who won the Calder Cup, I’m excited to see what they can do,’’ said Nill.

Nill is referring to the likes of Patrick Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak and Jyrki Jokipakka -- all AHL champions last season -- plus John Klingberg is coming over this season from Sweden.

"We think we’ve added some depth to our back end,” said Nill. "I’m looking forward to the steps all these guys make.’’

The Stars allowed 30.4 shots per game last season, a number that needs to go down; they were 17th in goals against per game at 2.72 -- OK, but not great -- and that’s despite super-solid goaltending from Kari Lehtonen, who sported a .919 save percentage while facing the second-most shots (1,888, behind only Semyon Varlamov) of any goalie in the NHL.

Like Varlamov in Colorado, a goalie can help mask issues on defense by standing on his head. It’s just that it’s not a recipe for long-term sustainability. The Stars need better play from their back end this season.

If the kids on defense don’t make the kind of step the Stars hope, one suspects that’s where Nill will focus ahead of the trade deadline. But that’s looking way down the road.

There’s lots of hockey to be played, and while there’s excitement for the Stars, leave it to Nill to also bring into perspective.

"People forget, we’re all two or three wins from being a top team and we’re all two or three losses from being out of the playoffs,” Nill said. "Nashville only had two fewer wins than us last year, Winnipeg just three or four. There’s not much difference from being in or out of the playoffs.’’

No question the parity in this league makes many of us overestimate at times the reasons why some teams get in and some don’t when the reality, as Nill suggests, is that a hair separates so many of the NHL clubs. Still, in trying to get that sliver of separation, acquiring two stud centers over 13 months is one heck of a way to go about it.

Not sure the Stars have what it takes on the blue line to truly contend for an NHL championship yet, but they will be must-watch TV all year long with that offense. You can bank on that.

Rapid Reaction: Ducks 5, Stars 4 OT

April, 27, 2014
Apr 27
10:25
PM CT

DALLAS -- The Anaheim Ducks are moving on to the second round of the playoffs after coming back to beat the Dallas Stars 5-4 in Game 6 in Dallas on Sunday.

How it happened: The Stars scored three goals in the first period to take control early. Dallas scored its first power-play goal since Game 2 and Ryan Garbutt's goal with 59 seconds left in the period gave the Stars a two-goal cushion. For the second straight game in Dallas, Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen watched the end from the bench. He was pulled midway through the second period (he was pulled in the third period of Game 4 in Dallas) and replaced by Jonas Hiller for the remainder of the game. Daley's second goal of the game, at 10:33 of the second period, put the Stars up by two goals for the second time. It stayed that way until Nick Bonino scored with Hiller on the bench in favor of an extra skater with 2:10 left in the game. Anaheim pulled Hiller again in the final minute and off a huge scrum in front of the Stars' net, goalie Kari Lehtonen lost his stick and moments later lost sight of the puck. Devante Smith-Pelly found it just outside the crease and floated it top shelf to tie the score with 22 seconds left.

What it means: Anaheim wins the series 4-2, scoring three unanswered goals to do it. The Ducks went through a goalie change, seemingly little momentum and a loud road crowd and found a way to get it done. It also avoids any thoughts of last season, when they lost to Detroit in Game 6 and then fell at home in Game 7 in the first round.

Players of the game: Jonas Hiller and Nick Bonino. He came in midway through the second period and didn't let anything by him. Despite a bunch of scoring chances and play going on in front of him, Hiller kept the Ducks within range, and they used late-third-period heroics to get the game to OT. Without Hiller's steady play in substitute duty, the Ducks aren't in the game to win it in overtime. Bonino scored the third goal of the game to get the Ducks within one and then deposited the winner in overtime.

Stat of the game: Three goals were scored in the final five minutes of the game by the Ducks to win it. The Ducks were relentless down the stretch. They pulled the goalie twice to score the tying goals, and then Anaheim got the one shot it needed to win the series.

What's next: Anaheim moves on to the second round and awaits the winner of the San Jose-Los Angeles series. The Sharks and Kings play Game 6 on Monday.

Rapid Reaction: Stars 4, Ducks 2

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
9:51
PM CT
DALLAS -- The home team remains perfect in this first-round series as the Dallas Stars tie the series up with a 4-2 win in Game 4. Some quick thoughts:

How it happened: Dallas controlled the final 40 minutes, scoring four unanswered goals -- two in the second and two in the third -- to turn a 2-0 deficit into a two-goal advantage. Cody Eakin scored on the rush early in the period, firing a wrist shot over Frederik Andersen to give the Stars their first lead of the game. Minutes later, Vernon Fiddler made a terrific backhand pass to Alex Goligoski, who didn't miss. That was all Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau needed to see of Andersen as Jonas Hiller replaced him midway through the final period.

The Ducks dominated the first period, holding the Stars without a shot for the final 9:21 of the period and getting two goals to take a 2-0 lead into the dressing room. But the Stars owned the second period. It took Stars captain Jamie Benn 27 seconds to get his team on the board, pushing the puck forward off a faceoff win and snapping one past Andersen. About six minutes later, Fiddler squeezed one over Andersen's shoulder on the short side to tie it.

What it means: Dallas has turned this into a best-of-three series by protecting their home ice in Games 3 and 4. The Ducks still get two of those three games in Anaheim, but the Stars will fly out on Thursday with the momentum.

Player of the game: The Stars' role players were the difference on Wednesday, led by Fiddler. He attacked the net, was physical when he needed to be, won some key faceoffs, blocked three shots and had a goal and an assist. That's a full game and a good one.

Stat of the game: 16-3. That was the shots on goal advantage for the Stars in the second period, when the momentum shifted. Shots can be a misleading stat, but the Stars just peppered the Anaheim net. They kept the puck in the offensive zone and the Ducks couldn't seem to get it out. The game went the Stars' direction from that point forward.

No captain: Ryan Getzlaf was scratched with an upper-body injury and flew back to Anaheim on Wednesday afternoon to get treatment. Rickard Rakell was inserted in Getzlaf's place. The Ducks listed Getzlaf as day-to-day and, by flying back and getting treatment, they are hopeful he will play in Game 5 on Friday.

What's next: Game 5 is Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET in Anaheim. And the Stars' win guarantees they'll be a Game 6 back in Dallas on Sunday.

Kari Lehtonen puts Stars back in the series

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
12:59
AM CT


DALLAS – Whether Kari Lehtonen wants to admit it or not, no one was under more pressure when Game 3 began than the 30-year-old goaltender.

The Dallas Stars, newcomers to the playoffs after a six-year hiatus, lost both games in Anaheim and desperately needed a victory on Monday to keep hopes alive for a longer postseason stay. And Lehtonen didn’t have a single playoff win on his resume.

Right away, the Ducks tested Lehtonen. Saku Koivu found the puck on his stick in close against Lehtonen and fired, only to have it smack off Lehtonen’s pads. It was Lehtonen’s body language after the save that had Stars goalie coach Mike Valley expecting a phenomenal night from his netminder.

“He got that shot and some others early and I could see a little swagger,” Valley said. “He relaxed and played his game. Having him as long as I’ve had him, I know everything about him it seems like. You just know how he moves and you can see when he’s feeling it and when his mind is in the right spot. You could tell early on that he was there.”

The Ducks could tell, too. They tried to get pucks through him any way possible. But he closed off the 5-hole, blocked enough of the net to watch top-shelf attempts hit the glass behind him. He got his long legs and skates out to keep wraparound attempts away and he stoned point-blank opportunities.

[+] EnlargeKari Lehtonen
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY SportsKari Lehtonen made 37 saves in the first playoff win of his career.


“We had probably, I think, the most chances we’ve had in the series before but we couldn’t beat him,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. “That’s what Lehtonen does. I’ve coached against him for many years and have seen him play games like that and he can do it, but we’ve got to find ways to score. We had chances to score. We just didn’t get it done.”

Lehtonen simply wouldn’t allow it. He made 37 saves, some of them stops that looked destined to flutter the netting behind him. Koivu had a few. Nick Bonino had one in the slot that Lehtonen blocked and Corey Perry took several whacks with traffic in front and still, Lehtonen didn’t let anything by him.

He donned a Stars cowboy hat after the game, worn by the MVP of the game as voted on by the team, and didn’t try to hide his smile.

"At the age of 30, it was about to get that first one," Lehtonen said. "It was nice to be able to be back there and help the team out."

While there are a bunch of new faces on the ice and in the front office, it’s easy to forget that Lehtonen is Joe Nieuwendyk's greatest legacy to this Stars team as the general manager. He traded for Lehtonen when he was an extra goalie in Atlanta dealing with a balky back and helped build him up into a solid starting goaltender. J.J. McQueen and Brad Jelllis got him in better shape and Valley put him through the mental and physical paces to improve him on and off the ice.

“He’s changed a lot since he got here,” Valley said. “He’s playing a style that suits him now. He’s a big goalie, so he’s letting the game come to him. He has unbelievable athleticism, but it’s a balance of being fundamentally sound and using that athleticism when you need to.

“I think just as important, he’s matured as a person. Goaltending is so much mental and being able to deal with different situations, being able to deal with pressure, being able to have a short memory and when you let in a goal, move on to the next one. If you have a bad or great game, move on. He’s early learned to do that and that’s maturity and experience. He doesn’t dwell on things. He learns from them and moves on.”

Lehtonen played like a true No. 1 goalie this season. He was a big reason this team ended its playoff drought. But the value of a goalie is determined in the playoffs. Things get tougher. Players get more physical. Traffic in front of the net rivals rush hour on the 405 in Los Angeles or 635 in Dallas.

Teams spend much of their time trying to make life as uncomfortable as possible for the goalie. Lehtonen pushed through all of it in a must-win game for the Stars.

“It’s an extra layer of confidence,” Valley said. “Any time you can accomplish something you haven’t done before, which is a playoff win for him, that’s huge. That’s a big stepping stone. Hopefully, it will create a lot more stepping stones.”

Now Lehtonen must prepare to do it all again on Wednesday, when the Ducks are liable to push even harder to get Lehtonen off his game. It will be yet another test for the goalie, who passed his toughest exam yet in Game 3.

Rapid Reaction: Stars 3, Ducks 0

April, 21, 2014
Apr 21
11:31
PM CT
DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars earned their first playoff victory since 2008, beating the Anaheim Ducks, 3-0. It was the Stars' first home game of the series, played in front of a sellout crowd of 19,120.

Some quick thoughts:

How it happened: The Stars got goals late in both the first and second periods. Jamie Benn, the Stars' second-leading goal scorer in the regular season, scored after Shawn Horcoff's shot from the left circle hit the pads of Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen and came right out to Benn on the right circle and he deposited it in the net. The goal was scored with 35 seconds left in the first period, allowing Dallas to take some momentum into the dressing room.

The teams were physical in the second period and both had some scoring chances. But it wasn't until the clock got under three minutes left that the Stars expanded their lead. Tyler Seguin's speed and puck-handling created the opportunity. He skated into the zone and left it for Valeri Nichuskin, who managed to get the puck through Andersen.

Dallas added another insurance goal midway through the third period.

What it means: The Stars earned their first shutout since April 10, 2008, at Anaheim in Game 1 of the first-round and in the process are back in the series. It was an opportunity lost for the Ducks to take a stranglehold in the series. The result also guarantees that the series will go back to Anaheim for Game 5 on Friday.

Player of the game: Kari Lehtonen was terrific when it mattered most. He made several key saves on some point-blank chances, including Saku Koivu and Nick Bonino early in the second period. That kept it a 1-0 game and the Stars were able to add to it later in the period. Lehtonen was in a good rhythm and not afraid to come out and challenge shots. And he saw a lot of them. The Ducks vastly outshot the Stars, but just couldn't get anything past Lehtonen, even when they got some traffic in front of him. He made 37 saves, earned his first playoff victory and did so in a shutout.

Stat of the game: The Stars' penalty kill was 5-for-5 and became a big momentum-booster for Stars goals late in the first and second periods. The Stars didn't allow rebound chances, blocked shots and Lehtonen was able to keep everything out. The Ducks haven't had a power-play goal since Game 1.

Injured defenseman: Stephane Robidas fractured his right leg early in the second period after getting tangled up with Ryan Garbutt in front of the Ducks' net. It's the same leg Robidas fractured in November when he was with Dallas, causing him to miss four months.

What's next: Game 4 is Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET at American Airlines Center before the series shifts back to Anaheim for Game 5 on Friday.

Much-needed G Dan Ellis now 4-0 at home

December, 18, 2013
12/18/13
12:55
AM CT
DALLAS -- Dallas Stars goaltender Dan Ellis knew on the flight back from Denver he'd be called on Tuesday night at American Airlines Center.

His team was playing a home-and-home on consecutive nights against the Colorado Avalanche, and starting netminder Kari Lehtonen faced 48 shots in a 6-2 loss in Denver on Monday night.

[+] EnlargeDan Ellis
Glenn James/NHLI/Getty Images"Last night we weren't committed to defense. We were committed to winning tonight," Stars backup goalie Dan Ellis said Tuesday after the second game against the Avalanche in as many nights.

Indeed, Stars coach Lindy Ruff needed his backup, and Ellis delivered in a 3-2 victory over the Avalanche in one of the best finishes of the season at the AAC.

Ellis withstood a chaotic last 25 seconds, stopping five shots, all of them at point-blank range. He also had help from his teammates, who didn't get in front of any Colorado shots on Monday night.

The Stars made a stronger effort in front of Ellis, starting with captain Jamie Benn, who had a crucial block on a shot from the point seconds after he was too casual on an empty-net opportunity that would have given the Stars a 4-2 victory.

The end result was a massive two points for Dallas -- and none for the division rival Avalanche -- as the Stars try to work their way into the Western Conference playoff race. The Stars are eight points out of the second wild-card spot held down by the Minnesota Wild, which has played three more games than Dallas.

"Last night we weren't committed to defense," Ellis said after Tuesday's game. "We were committed to winning tonight.

"The big guy plays a lot of games," he said of Lehtonen. "When you get that much rubber, you need to get a break. He had 50 shots [Monday], and he could have given up a lot more goals."

Ellis' biggest save Tuesday came late in a Colorado power play with just less than five minutes to go in the game when he robbed Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog on a one-timer right in front of the net to keep the game tied at 2-2.

"I've seen a little bit of their power play," Ellis said. "He has a great one-timer. So I had an eye on him. I expected a quick shot. I was able to snag it with my glove."

Two minutes later, Dallas’ Colton Sceviour scored on a breakaway for a 3-2 lead. And Ellis and the Stars held on tight for their 16th win of the season.

Ellis is now 4-0 at home. With more nights like Tuesday's, he might give Ruff greater cause to rest Lehtonen, who has played in 25 of the Stars' 33 games.

Stars thankful to have Kari Lehtonen back

October, 24, 2013
10/24/13
10:44
PM CT
DALLAS -- No, Kari Lehtonen wasn't the top star of Thursday's 5-1 win over the Calgary Flames. That was Alex Chiasson, whose two goals helped the Stars jump out in front.

But Thursday was a reminder of how much better a team can feel about a lead when its No. 1 goalie is back there as the final line of defense. That's especially true for the Stars, whose defensive corps has already coughed up a 3-1 lead this season.

Dallas took firm control of this game in the span of 61 seconds in the middle of the second period, scoring three goals in quick succession. Lehtonen made sure that it was all that was needed.

"It makes a difference having him in [goal]," said captain Jamie Benn, who found the net on Thursday. "If you make a mistake, more times than not, he makes the stop. We don't want to give up those Grade-A chances in the slot, and we're trying to keep things outside. We feel like if we don't give up those great chances, Kari will stop everything else."

(Read full post)

Nill practices patience turning Stars around

October, 22, 2013
10/22/13
10:00
AM CT
Jim NillAP Photo/Tony GutierrezJim Nill says the Stars are probably about two years away from where they'd like to be.


FRISCO, Texas -- There isn’t much hanging on the walls of Jim Nill’s office, which sits just above the practice ice at Dr Pepper StarCenter in Frisco, home of the Dallas Stars.

There are nails, at least. But no pictures of Stars hockey players or even a few he helped bring to the Detroit Red Wings in his long tenure there.

“That’s on the list,” Nill said. “Be patient.”

Patience is something Nill is working hard to preach -- and even harder to practice.

The 55-year-old Western Canada native admits that the competitor in him makes it difficult for him to accept that turning around a Stars franchise that last made the playoffs when George W. Bush was still in the White House (and not yet living in Dallas) isn’t going to happen quickly.

“I’ve got to be honest: I think we’re going to turn the corner, but we’re probably two years away from what we should be,” Nill said last week. “The core of the team is 20 to 26 years of age. That’s young. You give those guys two years to mature and what we have coming up in the system and I think in two years we’ll have a solid core. That’s how Stanley Cup champions are built. We are in the early stage, but we have the talent.”

Tyler Seguin #91, Sergei Gonchar #55, Erik Cole #72, Jamie Benn #14 and Alex Chiasson
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesJim Nill wants to find a young core to build the club around and keep improving.
It’s early in Nill’s inaugural season, but already his patience is getting tested. Dallas is 3-5-0 and is struggling on defense. The club is near the bottom of the league in shots against and, as you can imagine, is taking too many penalties thanks to the puck spending an inordinate amount of time in the Stars’ own end. It doesn’t help that starting goalie Kari Lehtonen has missed most of those games after tweaking his groin earlier in the season. He’s slated to return Thursday against Calgary.

“We just have to stay patient,” Nill said.

There’s that word again. What you won’t see in Nill is any kind of panic. That’s just not his style. Neither is skating into a new environment and showing off his guns despite his freshly-minted status as the Stars’ sheriff. But he has a way -- perhaps it’s his keen knowledge of the game and calm, yet assured demeanor -- of allowing his belief and confidence to seep into every aspect of the organization. He’s in charge, there’s no doubt about that. But he doesn’t have to flaunt it or demand it.

“The guy has no ego,” Stars owner Tom Gaglardi said. “He’s knows what he’s talking about. He’s on his game. He’s very competitive and hungry.”

Part of that comes from the fact that he was Ken Holland’s right-hand man in Detroit for so long, helping that organization draft, develop and hold onto key pieces that have made them the envy of most clubs in the NHL. And part of it is Nill has the ability to make those working for him feel immediately like they have a critical say in the direction of the franchise.
Maybe it’s that whole patience thing again. After all, Nill had chances to leave Detroit and didn’t. Part of it was his family. Part of it was his wife’s health -- Bekki has incurable liver cancer. It was discovered two years ago and 12 years after her breast cancer went into remission.

But when the Stars called, the Nills decided it was time for a move. That was after 19 years in management with the Red Wings and another three before that as a player.

Nill said he was sold after meeting Gaglardi and becoming convinced that there was stability in ownership and a commitment to winning. And he knew there were key pieces on the ice to building a contender.

“Any successful team is built from goaltending to defense to center ice,” Nill said. “You have to be good down the middle.”

Nill called Lehtonen a “great goalie” and is convinced he’s a player the team can build around.

“I don’t think he realizes how good he can be,” Nill said. “He’s at that age where he can figure it out.”

But the other two parts of Nill’s equation are going to take some work. He knew that before he arrived.

“There’s weakness on defense and we have to do something, but I know there are some prospects coming up,” Nill said. “That takes time. Defense is a tough position to learn. You need experience. The other big spot is center ice. That was a major hole.”

Nill went about plugging it. He moved Jamie Benn back to wing, his natural position, and named him team capatin. Nill made the biggest trade of his brief tenure, giving up a packaged centered by Loui Eriksson to get Tyler Seguin, a talented 21-year-old center. The deal didn’t come without some risk. Seguin made waves even before he skated in Dallas, putting some things on Twitter he shouldn’t have. But Nill managed to land one of the best centers available and did so by doing his homework. Boston needed to make a move with the salary cap dipping and the Stars had the ability to do it and improve their forward group. Nill made sure the Bruins had the Stars in mind when they were ready to make a move.

It was a deal in the mold of Nill’s philosophy: Find a young core to build the club around and then keep improving. Nill believes in doing that through draft and development, key trades and quality signings. It’s a blueprint that has made the Red Wings the envy of every organization in the NHL. You know the names -- Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Daniel Cleary -- guys developed or obtained by the Wings that made up their core and shoved the winning window wide open.

Of course, sometime mistakes are made. You could argue, at least right now, that $10 million for two years of an aging Sergei Gonchar might not have been money well spent. But Nill will also argue that having Gonchar and even Shawn Horcoff teach the younger guys about life off the ice will help them two or three years down the road, when Gonchar and Horcoff aren’t a part of this club anymore.
Nill believes strongly in what he’s doing and he’s not going to change course, even when the ice gets a bit choppy.

“You have to have stability,” Nill said. “If you start making changes every two years on philosophy, you’re going to chase your tail.

“We’re going to draft and develop. That’s the key in the world of the CBA (collective bargaining agreement, which includes a salary cap). You have to make smart signings. If you get committed to somebody long-term for big money and it’s the wrong person, your hands are tied.

“We want to be a high-paced, hungry, competitive team. We’ll play hard and move the puck. You can’t play to not make a mistake. We want to make plays. But you have to be smart. That takes time to learn.”

Nill also knows it takes a coach to help make that happen. He made the decision to fire Glen Gulutzan shortly after he took the job and began a search. Nill wanted someone with experience who could motivate and teach a young group. So he hired Lindy Ruff.

“The process of hiring a coach was probably the toughest thing I’ve had to do in my young career as a GM,” Nill said. “You know people, but you don’t know them. You interview and some people are naturally polished and some aren’t. That may not mean anything.

“I don’t want to say I got lucky, but I got the right guy. He’s a great person. The one thing I didn’t realize is he’s such a detailed guy. His passion is unbelievable.”

Nill didn’t overhaul the existing management group. Instead, he came in and evaluated the people left after Joe Nieuwendyk’s departure and decided to keep most of them. Les Jackson, the assistant GM, is respected in the game for his ability to evaluate talent as he runs the club’s scouting department. Mark Janko and Scott White do a fair amount of negotiating contracts and keeping up-to-date on the CBA, which a quick glance makes it appear you need several advanced degrees to understand.

“He cares about every detail in the entire organization from players, player salaries and treating the players with respect as well as staff, training staff, scouts, everybody,” Janko said. “He wants to know about everything that happens every day, but not in a controlling way. It’s more in a leadership way.”

The Stars clearly have their leader. And he’s telling anyone who will listen that while he’s frustrated with his team’s start, he’s staying patient.

“Patience is tough for everybody,” Gaglardi said. “I expect to get better. I don’t want to go backward. How far that takes us in terms of making the playoffs or how many rounds we win? I don’t know. I think this is a core of guys that in the next couple of years are going to improve and then in year three or four or five, we’ve got a real shot to win. That’s what we’re building for. But it takes time.”

In the meantime, Nill and his staff will continue to look for any way to improve the club while never wavering from their philosophy. Perhaps with some of that patience, Nill could hang a few photos on his office wall, though?
All the Dallas Stars playing at the 2012 World Championship are now finished as the USA, Canada and Sweden were all eliminated in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Stars forward Loui Eriksson had one goal and one assist, but Sweden lost 4-3 to Czech Republic. Czech forward Milan Michalek scored the game-winner with 29 seconds remaining. Eriksson finished with 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in eight games, leading Sweden in goals and finishing second on the team in points.

Defenseman Alex Goligoski had no points in Team USA’s 3-2 loss to Finland. Finland’s Jesse Joensuu scored two goals, including the game-winner with just nine seconds remaining. Goligoski ended the tournament with five points (one goal, four assists) and a plus-seven rating in eight games.

Stars goalie Richard Bachman, who played in one tournament game, was the backup to Jimmy Howard for Team USA on Thursday.

Forward Jamie Benn had no points in Canada’s 4-3 loss to Slovakia. Slovakia’s Michael Handzus scored a power play goal with 2:28 left, snapping a 3-3 tie. Benn ended up with five points (three goals, two assists) in eight games.

Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen is out for the rest of the tournament for the Finns due to a minor knee injury.

Forward Tomas Vincour, who was on the Czech's travel roster for the tournament, was not among the 25 players his country registered to play in the tournament, so he is not eligible to play any games.

Thursday’s results (quarterfinals)

Slovakia 4, Canada 3
Russia 5, Norway 2
Finland 3, USA 2
Czech Republic 4, Sweden 3

Saturday’s games (semifinals)

Russia vs. Finland, 6:30 a.m.
Czech Republic vs. Slovakia, 10:30 a.m.


Kari Lehtonen has minor knee injury

May, 16, 2012
5/16/12
2:50
PM CT
DALLAS -- Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen suffered a minor knee injury at the World Championship, according to Dallas goaltending coach Mike Valley.

Lehtonen was injured in Sunday's game between Finland and the United States when Team USA forward Bobby Ryan was tripped and then slid into Lehtonen, who left the game and did not return.

Valley said the injury, which is not serious, will likely sideline Lehtonen for two to three weeks. He should be fine after that.

Lehtonen will not play for Finland for the rest of the World Championship, which enters the playoff round on Thursday.

Thursday’s World Championship games (quarterfinals)
Canada vs. Slovakia, 5:00 a.m.
Russia vs. Norway, 7:45 a.m.
USA vs. Finland, 10:30 a.m.
Sweden vs. Czech Republic, 1:15 p.m.

World Championship update

May, 14, 2012
5/14/12
5:03
PM CT
Defenseman Philip Larsen was the only Dallas Star playing at the World Championship on Monday. He had no points, two shots and a plus-one rating in 24:40 of ice time as Denmark won its first game of the tournament, defeating Latvia by a 2-0 score.

Finland, which is without injured Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen, defeated Kazakhstan 4-1 on Monday. Lehtonen is out “until further notice” with a lower body injury. The Finns also were without defenseman Anssi Salmela, who was suspended for three games for his hit on Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski in Sunday’s game against the United States.

Tuesday is the final day of the preliminary round.

Monday’s games

France 2, Belarus 1
Denmark 2, Latvia 0
Finland 4, Kazakhstan 1
Russia 4, Italy 0

Tuesday’s games

Canada vs. Belarus, 4:15 a.m.
Norway vs. Denmark, 5:15 a.m.
Slovakia vs. France, 8:15 a.m.
Czech Republic vs. Germany, 9:15 a.m.
USA vs. Switzerland, 12:15 p.m.
Sweden vs. Latvia, 1:15 p.m.


Dallas Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen is out with a lower body injury for Finland at the World Championship.

Lehtonen was injured in the third period of Sunday's 5-0 loss to the United States when Team USA's Bobby Ryan was tripped and then slid into him. Lehtonen left the game after stopping 25 of 30 shots in the loss.

According to the International Ice Hockey Federation, Finland said that Lehtonen is out "until further notice."

Here's the video of the play where Lehtonen was injured.

Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen left Sunday’s World Championship game between Finland and the United States with a lower body injury after a collision with Team USA’s Bobby Ryan.

It happened with just over seven minutes left in the game when Ryan fell on Lehtonen in the Finnish crease. Lehtonen left the game and was replaced by Petri Vehanen.

There was no immediate word on the specifics of Lehtonen’s injury or the extent.

“Lehtonen is injured. That is all I know,” Finland coach Jukka Jalonen told media after the game.

Lehtonen stopped 25 of 30 shots in the game, which the USA won 5-0. It was a rough outing for Lehtonen, who was knocked around a few times in the crease by a U.S. team that dominated play from the drop of the puck.

Earlier in the third period, Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski was shaken up when he was hit from behind and slammed hard into the endboards by Finland’s Anssi Salmela, who received a boarding major and game misconduct. Goligoski returned to the game. Salmela is expected to face disciplinary action from the IIHF.

Goligoski had one assist and three shots on goal in 18:50 of playing time for the USA, which clinched a berth in the quarterfinals with its victory.

Stars goalie Richard Bachman backed up Jimmy Howard, who stopped all 18 shots he faced to earn the shutout for Team USA.

Sunday’s games

USA 5, Finland 0
Russia 2, Czech Republic 0
Slovakia 1, Switzerland 0
Norway 12, Germany 4

Monday’s games

Belarus vs. France, 8:15 a.m.
Latvia vs. Denmark, 9:15 a.m.
Kazakhstan vs. Finland, 12:15 p.m.
Italy vs. Russia, 1:15 p.m.


Stars goaltender Richard Bachman made his first appearance at the World Championship on Friday, stopping 17 of 19 shots as Team USA defeated Kazakhstan in overtime, 3-2.

“I had a lot of things going through my head -- I was excited to throw on the USA jersey and be a starter for a game,” Bachman told USAHockey.com. “I hadn’t played in 10 days -- since I had a little game action in the exhibition against Sweden. For me, I was just trying to get comfortable with my surroundings and just settle in.”

Kazakhstan, which came into the game with an 0-4 record, gave the U.S. all it could handle and forced Bachman to make some quality saves throughout the game.

Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski had an assist, a game-high eight shots on goal and was a plus-three for the USA, which outshot Kazakhstan 50-19.

Carolina’s Justin Faulk scored two goals for the USA, including the game-winner with 22 seconds left in overtime.

Canada defeated Finland 5-3 on Friday. Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen had 21 saves on 25 shots for the Finns, who lost for the first time in the tournament. Stars forward Jamie Benn had no points, one shot and two penalty minutes for the Canadians.

Stars forward Loui Eriksson had two assists, a game-high 10 shots on goal, but Sweden fell to Russia 6-3 in a battle of unbeaten teams. Russia is now the only unbeaten in the preliminary round at 5-0-0.

Eriksson now has nine points (three goals, six assists) in five games and ranks second in scoring at the tournament to Russia’s Evgeni Malkin, who had five points (three goals, two assists) in Friday’s game and now has 12 points (six goals, six assists) in five games.

Vincour won’t play at tournament

The Czech Republic made it official Friday that Stars forward Tomas Vincour won’t play at the World Championship. The Czechs registered their final three players for the tournament to bring their active roster to the 25-man limit and Vincour wasn’t among them.

Friday’s games

USA 3, Kazakhstan 2 (OT)
Czech Republic 6, Italy 0
Canada 5, Finland 3
Russia 7, Sweden 7-3

Saturday’s games

Slovakia vs. Belarus, 4:15 a.m.
Norway vs. Latvia, 5:15 a.m.
Switzerland vs. France, 8:15 a.m.
Germany vs. Denmark, 9:15 a.m.
Kazakhstan vs. Canada, 12:15 p.m.
Italy vs. Sweden, 1:15 p.m.

World Championship update

May, 10, 2012
5/10/12
3:54
PM CT
Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski had no points and two shots on goal in Team USA’s 5-3 win over Belarus. Goaltender Richard Bachman backed up Jimmy Howard again, but could get the start in Friday’s game when the USA takes on Kazakhstan.

Defenseman Philip Larsen had no points and a game-high six shots on goal in Denmark’s 3-1 loss to Russia on Thursday.

Kari Lehtonen did not dress for Finland, which defeated France 7-1 and improved to 4-0-0 in preliminary round play. Finland plays Canada on Friday.

Tomas Vincour did not play for Czech Republic, which defeated Latvia 3-1.

Thursday’s games

USA 5, Belarus 3
Russia 3, Denmark 1
Finland 7, France 1
Czech Republic 3, Latvia 1

Friday’s games

Kazakhstan vs. USA, 8:15 a.m.
Italy vs. Czech Republic, 9:15 a.m.
Finland vs. Canada, 12:15 p.m.
Russia vs. Sweden, 1:15 p.m.


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