With Kari Lehtonen apparently ready to return to the lineup Thursday the Dallas Stars have made some key decisions on their other goaltenders.
Andrew Raycroft, who has been the backup to Lehtonen since last season, will go on waivers Wednesday morning in order for Lehtonen to be activated in time for Thursday’s game against Columbus. That move signals that Richard Bachman will now move into the role of Lehtonen’s backup.
“It’s no secret that we’ve been taking a look at Richard the past three weeks and he’s got a good number of starts,” said Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk. “It’s always a difficult decision because Andrew is a veteran guy and he’s a good teammate, but we made the decision at this time that we are going to go with Bachman.”
The 24-year-old Bachman, called up due to an injury to Lehtonen, has appeared in nine games and started the last eight games for the Stars. He’s posted a 5-2-0 record, 2.76 goals against average and .912 save percentage. He’s had some ups and downs, but the Stars like the overall performance.
“We’ve looked at the body of work over the last three weeks and we think he’s done a lot of good things,” said Nieuwendyk. “I know he’s let in some goals he shouldn’t have lately, but he’s compact for a smaller goaltender and he is good with his rebounds. I think those goals that have gone in lately are correctable mistakes.
“I think he’s paid his dues. He’s had a good training camp, he’s done some good things in the American Hockey League and I think he will help us.”
The Stars will know Thursday at 11 a.m. if Raycroft, who was 2-8-0 with a 3.52 goals against average and a .898 save percentage this season, has cleared waivers or if another team has claimed him. If he clears he will be assigned to the Texas Stars of the AHL.
Lehtonen, who has missed the last 12 games with a groin injury suffered in a November 26 game at Phoenix, had a good practice on Tuesday. He had a net to himself for a good part of the practice.
"The first drill I wasn't too excited, but after that I settled down and started feeling very good," Lehtonen said. "It was nice. I got more shots, so that was good.”
Before going out with the injury, Lehtonen was superb in net for the Stars, allowing two goals or fewer in 13 of his first 18 starts. He is 13-4-1 with a 2.34 goals against average a .926 save percentage on the season.
In 12 games the Stars were without Lehtonen, the team posted a 7-5-0 record and held their ground in the tight Western Conference playoff race.
“It’s very encouraging,” said Nieuwendyk. “We’ve got the big guy coming back in net on Thursday and we’ve got to push the pace here a little bit.”