Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dallas Stars Goalie Spotlight

John Tranchina who's one of the main writers for the Dallas Stars Website did a pair of features on the who's expected to be the Goaltender Duo next season on Kari Lehtonen and Brent Krahn go under the spotlight.

By John Tranchina of the Dallas Stars Website: http://www.dallasstars.com/

Kari Lehtonen Profile

Brent Krahn Profile

Kari Lehtonon preparing diligently for upcoming season.

While Marty Turco leaving the org. as an unrestricted free agent, 26 year old Finnish Netminder Kari Lehtonen takes over as the top man in the Dallas Stars Crease.

Lehtonen, who was acquired in a trade with the Atlanta Thrashers on Feb. 9 and signed a three year contract extension on May 11, will become the franchise's new number one since 2002-2003.

His stellar performance over the final month of last season proved to the Stars that Lehtonen would be a worthy successor to Turco and earned him a contract extension, which will pay him 10.65 Million Dollars (3.55 Million Average per season) over the next three years.

Over the final 14 games, of which he started 9, Lehtonen sparkled, fashioning a 6-3-0 mark, including his 100th career victory, with a 2.44 GAA and a .926 SV%

"We're moving forward with Kari," Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk said. "We've had a long tradition here of having premium goaltenders. Marty Turco was a solid number one here for over a decade now and has done some great things on and off the ice. But I just felt for the long term success of the franchise, we needed to acquire Kari Lehtonen. I think the way he played in the last 10-12 games, his performance showed that with a good summer of training, we hope that he can be an elite goaltender once again like he was early in his career."

Lehtonen, who has had trouble with injuries throughout his career, has been working hard this summer to make sure he continues re-gaining his form that led him to the selection by the Thrashers with the 2nd overall pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.

Last season, Lehtonen missed the first four months of the year (leading up to his trade with Dallas) recovering from multiple back surgeries, and after working his way back into shape, finished the year strong.

"When I came year, I started from zero," said the 6'4", 215 pound native of Helsinki, Finland, of his fitness level. "I had no clue if my body could handle playing and all that stuff." The last maybe eight games, I felt very comfy. I think it also helped that the games went well, and with me starting to get comfortable being with the new team. It was great to see that I was able to do it and that gives me a lot of confidence going into the next year."

To that end, Lehtonen is determined to remain healthy this season. In an attempt to keep his conditioning level up and prevent future injuries, Lehtonen altered his summer program a bit from what he's done in the past.

"I probably started in past years doing things (in early July) and this year, I started things almost right away," said Lehtonen, who still has a house in Atlanta. "These guys in Dallas hooked me up with a strength coach in Atlanta and I started going there five days a week and doing specific things with my back and for my hips and groins and just kind of getting those parts stronger. Now we're starting to do more regular things, like carido things and stuff like that. I've done a lot more and realize that's very important."

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Brent Krahn looking to take advantage of opportunity.

It's been a long time coming for Brent Krahn and he's excited at the opportunity.

This September at Dallas Stars Training Camp, for the first time in his professional hockey career, Krahn will have a chance to compete for a NHL Roster Spot.

As a 28 year old former first round choice (Ninth overall to Calgary in 2000), the significance of this should not be understood, as Krahn has overcome numerous obstacles, including several knee surgeries, to get to this point.

After leading the Stars minor league affiliate, the Texas Stars (AHL), to the Calder Cup Finals in June, Krahn signed a one year two way contract extension to remain with the organization.

He will battle recently signed free agent Andrew Raycroft for the NHL Backup slot behind Kari Lehtonen.

"It's exciting," said Krahn, whose only NHL Action came in a 20 minute relief outing with Dallas back in 2008-2009. "This is going to be my third year in the organization. I think they gave me a chance after my knee surgery and they've just been so good to me, they've offered my an opportunity every year and this year's no different. There's I think even more of an opportunity now to prove to them i'm committed. It's up to me. I was pretty excited to get the deal done and i'm looking forward to training camp."

Initially, the Stars planned on having Krahn battle it out with Texas Crease mate Matt Climie, for the Dallas back-up job, but Climie opted to leave the organization as a free agent, so they brought in Raycroft to provide added depth, as well as healthy competition for ice time.

"Matt Climie decided to explore other options, so we made the decision that we wanted to get a veteran backup in here with Austin or with our club," Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk said regarding the Raycroft signing on July 1. "Our number one goal is to have competition for our backup role here and that's what we've created - not just in training camp, but throughout the year."

"We didn't resign Climie, so I think the opportunity is equally as good between Raycroft and Krahn with who's to grab that backup position," added Dallas Goaltender Coach Mike Valley. "That competition becomes so important because it just makes each guy push that much harder."

While Raycroft has considerably more NHL Experience, Krahn certainly impressed Dallas management with an outstanding season in Texas, posting a 17-4-0 record, with five shutouts, a sparkling 1.83 GAA and a stellar a .945 SV%. Krahn GAA & SP numbers would have each led the AHL if he had played enough games to qualify for the league's season ending list, but an injury in late November cost him 40 games before he returned in late March.

He resumed his role as number one goaltender for the AHL Playoffs, leading Texas into the second round before suffering a concussion in Game 6 of that Series against Chicago. Climie stepped up in his place and helped guide the club into the Calder Cup Championship Series.


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