Kari Lehtonen was bouncing around the halls of the Xcel Energy Center on Sunday morning, doing stretching exercises, squats, a little weightlifting.
It was a great sign for the Stars.
After facing 40 shots in a 4-3 win over Phoenix on Saturday night in Dallas — his first game since April — Lehtonen looked strong and fresh.
"I feel great," Lehtonen said. "Facing those shots and getting into the game quickly, that was a good start for me. It was a work day yesterday, and today I do feel like I worked. But I feel fine, and I'm ready to go, and I think that's a good sign."
Lehtonen did not start Sunday but said he could have if he'd needed to. Goaltender coach Mike Valley said he was comforted by Lehtonen's performance.
"You are curious, and I just thought it was a great night for him," Valley said. "It's hard to believe it's been eight months since he played. But that was huge, because they had some great chances, and he really rose to the occasion and kept us in a very tight game."
Lehtonen said he felt out of place for the first five minutes or so but then just sort of melted into the game. Lehtonen, 29, has played 345 games and said it's not that difficult to just slip into game mode.
"It took me a little while, maybe four or five minutes. I felt on the first couple of shots I left weird rebounds or felt awkward, but it changed pretty quickly," he said. "I try not to think too much out there. I just told myself I have done this many times before, so I just said to myself, 'Go out and do your job.'"
Lehtonen said that while he had not really thought about missing hockey during the lockout, he realized Saturday that he had.
"When game day comes, it's a special feeling," he said. "One of the best feelings in the world is when the horn sounds and you've done a good job, and your team has won … that next hour or so is just awesome. So, yeah, I missed that. It was great to feel it again."
Kari Lehtonen feels fresh after first game since April but sits out vs. Wild
Dallas Morning News | Jan 21