Stars-Avalanche Preview

In the midst of a free fall, the Dallas Stars are now without

Kari Lehtonen.

They’re hoping Andrew Raycroft can win for the first time in

nearly 11 months.

As injuries continue to mount, Raycroft will try to help the

Stars end a four-game road slide Monday night when they face the

Colorado Avalanche.

Dallas (13-9-1) has endured a 2-6-1 stretch after starting the

season by winning 11 of its first 14.

The recent swoon includes a 3-0 loss at Colorado (10-12-1) on

Nov. 18. In that game, the Stars wasted an outstanding effort from

Lehtonen, who had a season-high 42 saves on 44 shots.

Now, they’ll have to cope with the goaltender’s absence after he

suffered a groin injury 5:31 into Saturday’s 3-0 loss at Phoenix.

Lehtonen, 13-4-1 with a 2.34 goals-against average, was placed on

injured reserve and will be replaced by Raycroft.

Raycroft stopped 33 of 36 shots Saturday, falling to 0-7-0 with

a 4.53 GAA in his last 11 games – seven starts – since making 26

saves in a 4-0 win at Minnesota on Jan. 9.

“Razor has been the guy before and that’s why we got him – to

have a situation where we felt like we have two good goalies,”

coach Glen Gulutzan told the Stars’ official website. “He’s going

to be the guy Monday for sure and if he has to carry the ball for a

week, I have no problems having him do that and I don’t think he

does, either.”

Raycroft has lost three of four meetings with the Avalanche. He

had 40 saves in a 5-0 defeat at Colorado on Nov. 6, 2010, in his

first game there since spending the 2008-09 season with the

team.

He feels some consistent playing time should be a benefit.

“I’ve been a starter in the league and to be honest, feel more

comfortable with it most of the time. You can get into a bit of a

rhythm,” Raycroft said.

The Stars continue to play without captain Brenden Morrow (upper

body), defenseman Alex Goligoski (broken thumb) and right wing Adam

Burish (broken hand), while defenseman Trevor Daley (back) is also

expected to be out after getting hurt Saturday.

Left wing Vernon Fiddler suffered a groin injury against the

Coyotes and is day-to-day.

Increased production from Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson would be

welcome.

Benn leads Dallas with 23 points, but has just five in the last

nine games and none in five of the last seven. He had three assists

in a 7-6 overtime win over the Avalanche on Nov. 4, setting up both

of Eriksson’s goals – including the game-winner.

Eriksson also assisted on Fiddler’s tally in that meeting, but

has just one of his team-leading 10 goals over the past seven

games.

The Stars have lost seven of their past nine visits to

Denver.

The Avalanche are trying to win back-to-back games for the first

time since a five-game winning streak Oct. 10-17. They beat

Edmonton 5-2 on Saturday to split the first four of this eight-game

homestand.

Matt Duchene, the team leader with nine goals and 17 points, has

four goals and one assist in his last seven games. The center has

five goals and seven assists in 10 career meetings with Dallas,

including a hat trick in the Avs’ overtime defeat earlier this

month.

Stefan Elliott will try to build on his memorable NHL debut

Saturday, when he scored the game-winner for his first goal. He was

recalled from Lake Erie of the AHL to replace fellow blueliner Erik

Johnson, who is on IR with a groin injury.