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Dallas gets Lehtonen (groin) back for playoff push

Apr 17, 2013, 5:09 PM EDT

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Kari Lehtonen #32 of the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on February 8, 2013 in Dallas, Texas.
(February 7, 2013 - Source: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America) Getty Images

The Dallas Stars will have their No. 1 netminder back for the postseason chase.

Kari Lehtonen, forced from an Apr. 9 win over Los Angeles with a groin injury that saw him miss the last three games, will be back in goal Thursday when the Stars take on Vancouver.

“It was good to get a little time off,” Lehtonen told the Dallas Morning News. “We have a few games left and I am even more excited now to play. We’re in a good spot and trying to climb into the playoffs.”

The Stars sit 10th in the West heading into Wednesday night’s action, two points back of eighth-place Detroit (47 points) for the final playoff spot.

They’re also two points back of Columbus, but have a game in hand.

If the end-of-season schedule suggests anything, it’s that all three teams will get to decide their fates against each other.

Dallas will play Columbus in its second-to-last game of the year before closing out the season against Detroit on Apr. 27 — but the Stars have a tough hill to climb prior to those games.

On Thursday, they face the Northwest Division-leading Canucks before heading out on a three-game roadie through St. Louis, Los Angeles and San Jose.

No surprise the club is thrilled to get its No. 1 netminder back in action.

“He’s an elite talent, a competitive guy, he has a strong desire to ‘part the seas,’ so to speak,” Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan said of Lehtonen. “He wants to make sure he gets this thing done.

“His health has improved dramatically in the last three days, and I know he has the ability to take this team where it needs to go.”

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