Stars’ goaltender Nilstorp excited to play alongside idol Thomas

DALLAS — With Dallas Stars No. 1 goaltender Kari Lehtonen currently listed as day-to-day with a concussion, Dallas had to recall a netminder to serve as the backup to Tim Thomas. So, on Sunday the Stars summoned Cristopher Nilstorp from the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League.

This is of course isn’t the first taste of life in the NHL for Nilstorp, who appeared in five games for the Stars last season. But it is the 30-year-old Swedish netminder’s first trip to Dallas this season, so he’s understandably excited.

"Well, it’s always good to get the call-up. We’re playing good down there, the whole team played real good, so it’s been good so far. It’s fun to be here now," he said after morning skate on Monday.

Lehtonen sustained the concussion in a 4-3 win against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday early in the third period and Thomas had to finish the game and earned a win in his Dallas debut.

Nilstorp is of course back in the NHL to serve as Thomas’ back-up, a role he’s just fine with, especially since the ex-Bruin is someone he idolized growing up.

"That’s pretty awesome actually. I remember I had posters on my wall of him," Nilstorp admitted with a smile. "It’s pretty awesome to be here and be around him and see how good he is and how hard he works."

In 39 games this season in the AHL, Nilstorp was 21-12-4 with two shutouts, a goals-against-average of 2.58 and a .915 save percentage. He had some injury issues early in the year, but has battled through those and is now clearly at the top of his game.

"He’s really probably his best hockey right now, so we know that either Jack (Campbell) or (Nilstorp) could come up and play and they both played well," Stars head coach Lindy Ruff said.

Of course, the plan is for Thomas to start the bulk if not all the games while Lehtonen is sidelined, but if Nilstorp is called upon by Ruff, he’ll be ready for his latest shot in the NHL.

"Well, I have good confidence right now," Nilstorp said. "I think I’m settled down to the game over here (in the States), which feels great. But it helps a lot to have (Mike) Valley around and learn from a lot of guys here too, so it’s good."

That learning process starts tonight when he gets to see his former idol, Thomas, up close and personal as the veteran netminder makes his first start for the Stars as the Columbus Blue Jackets visit American Airlines Center as Dallas concludes a three-game homestand.