The last time that Kari Lehtonen faced the Coyotes, the Stars netminder suffered an injury that temporarily derailed his solid season.
The Finn has finally begun to find his form once again and carries a personal three-game win streak into Dallas' meeting tonight with Pacific Division-rival Phoenix in a matchup of two teams just on the outside of the playoff picture.
Now in his third season with the Stars, Lehtonen is 19-11-1 in 32 games this year while posting a 2.38 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. He helped backstop Dallas to a pair of shootout wins over Phoenix in October, but suffered a groin injury in a Nov. 26 meeting in Arizona that sidelined him for 12 games.
The Coyotes won that meeting 3-0 behind a 26-save shutout from former Stars netminder Mike Smith.
Lehtonen, meanwhile, lost seven of his first 10 decisions back from injury, losing four in a row from Jan. 14-21. He lasted just under 40 minutes in the final contest of that slide at Minnesota, giving up four goals on 19 shots.
The 28-year-old hasn't lost since, giving up only three goals in three games. He snapped his personal skid with a shutout win over Anaheim right before the All-Star break and came up with 33 saves and another two in the shootout of Saturday's 2-1 win over the Wild.
"They got a few chances and I was able to make some saves and get lucky a couple times. Our penalty killing was very good too so that helped also," Lehtonen said. "Overall, it was a fun game for me getting a lot of shots and then the two points at the end."
Mike Ribeiro scored in regulation and Loui Eriksson and Jamie Benn found the back of the net in the shootout for the Stars, who have won three of four since a five-game skid and pulled within two points of the Wild for the eighth spot in the Western Conference.
The Coyotes joined the Stars in the ninth spot with last night's 3-1 victory over the Red Wings, equaling Dallas' 56-point total on the season. Phoenix got a pair of goals from Martin Hanzal, his first multi-goal effort since Oct. 23.
Boyd Gordon also scored shorthanded, Ray Whitney had two assists to stretch his point streak to five straight games (2 goals, 6 assists) and Smith ended with 30 saves to win his career-high 20th game of the campaign. Phoenix was coming off a victory on Saturday over Pacific Division-leading San Jose and has won three of four, wrapping a season-long six-game homestand with a record of 3-2-1.
"We were gritty tonight. We found a way to get a win tonight on home ice when it was needed the most," Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett said. "We had a great effort from a lot of our guys tonight and that is going to be key down the stretch here."
Phoenix has won two straight for the first time since Dec. 20-21 and will look to win three in a row for the first time this season.
Six of the past seven games between these two clubs have been decided by one goal and that could give the edge to Dallas. The Stars are 14-6-2 in games decided by the minimum this year, while the Coyotes are 8-9-8.