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Lehtonen set to return for Stars in clash with Blue Jackets

Kari Lehtonen will return to the Dallas crease for the game homestand at American Airlines Center against the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets.

Lehtonen was off to a superb start to the season when he suffered a groin injury on Nov. 26 in Phoenix. The veteran netminder is 13-4-1 with a 2.34 goals-against average and .926 save percentage this season and Dallas is just 7-10-0 this year when Lehtonen is not between the pipes.

"[Lehtonen] is ready to go. He'll get the start tomorrow and I think it's the right time to do all this and he's ready," Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan told his club's official web site on Wednesday.

With Lehtonen activated from injured reserve, the Stars placed veteran backup Andrew Raycroft on waivers, leaving rookie Richard Bachman as the second option to Lehtonen. Bachman is 5-2-0 with a 2.76 GAA this year, while Raycroft is just 2-8-0 with a 3.51 GAA.

Lehtonen will try to help the Stars bounce back from a poor road effort tonight. The club lost for the second time in three games Monday in St. Louis, dropping a 5-3 decision to the Blues, who went 2-for-2 on the power play and outshot Dallas by a 38-23 margin.

Mike Ribeiro, Eric Nystrom and Michael Ryder scored for the Stars, who enter tonight trailing San Jose for first place in the Pacific Division by one point. Dallas is also tied with Los Angeles for second in the division.

Bachman made 22 saves on 25 shots on Monday, while Raycroft stopped 11-of-12 shots in relief.

"Going on the road against a good defensive club, I thought we needed to put more pucks on net," Gulutzan said. "We certainly need our special teams to be better. It's hard to win on the road, especially against this type of club if your specialty teams aren't that good."

Ryder has been red hot for the Stars recently, scoring a goal in five straight games and recording a point in six consecutive outings. His 14 goals this season are a team-high. Dallas forward Jamie Benn also enters tonight on a six-game point streak.

Dallas has won two of its last three home tests and will also welcome Boston and Detroit during this residency. Overall, the Stars have a solid 11-5-1 record in Big D this season.

The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, have lost six straight games and are still two losses away from their longest skid of the season. Columbus is dead last in the NHL with 23 points -- five less than the 29th-ranked New York Islanders.

After five straight regulation setbacks, Columbus was at least able to earn a point in Tuesday's shootout loss against visiting Calgary. The Blue Jackets entered the third period with a 1-0 lead, but Jarome Iginla tied the contest early in the third and then provided the shootout winner for the Flames.

Steve Mason stopped 25 shots, but the Blue Jackets could only muster a second- period tally from Derick Brassard.

The Blue Jackets have lost three straight on the road and are just 3-12-2 as the visiting club this season.

Dallas is 2-0 against the Blue Jackets this year after sweeping a home-and- home series back in October. Lehtonen won both of those games, stopping 51- of-55 total shots over the two outings.

The Stars have taken three in a row and four of five overall in this series. Columbus has lost two straight and three of its last four trips to Dallas.