Kari Lehtonen practices, could return next week

FRISCO -- Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who has missed the last ten games with a groin injury, practiced with the team Thursday for the first time since going out of the lineup.

Lehtonen, who has been working with goaltending coach Mike Valley on his own and before practices, took shots during the team’s optional practice in Frisco.

“It was fun, but it wasn’t as easy as I was hoping. Tomorrow I hope I can do a little better,” Lehtonen said. “Tomorrow it’s just getting more used to those harder shots and we’ll see after Christmas where I am.”

Thursday’s practice was just the first step for Lehtonen as he works his way to get back in the lineup after the injury, which he suffered in a November 28 game at Phoenix. Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said the plan is for Lehtonen to return at some point next week.

“He’s right on track,” Gulutzan said. “He’ll be a game player right after Christmas at some point and before the new year, somewhere in that six day block.”

After Friday, the Stars will have a two-day holiday break. Then the Stars play at St. Louis on December 26th, host Columbus on the 29th and then play the Boston Bruins at American Airlines Center on New Year’s Eve.

“That St. Louis game (December 26th) comes a little fast for me, but hopefully after that,” said Lehtonen.