Items of great intrigue for a hockey fan like me on a morning like today....
* - Kari Lehtonen to get another shot at starting tonight against the Sharks. - There is a case to be made that Joe Nieuwendyk had made up his mind when he authorized the trade with Atlanta a month ago, but assuming that there is still some uncertainty about whether Lehtonen is the man for the 2010-11 season as the Stars #1 goaltender, this is a big night for the big Fin.
Tough assignment, though, as his first two start for the Stars are against the Pittsburgh Penguins and now the Sharks. Tonight's game could certainly be one that has a high number of pucks coming his way, but now is the time to see if he is more than just a big body. Realizing it would not benefit Joe in the slightest to show us his hand, allow me to say it would be nice to know what he was thinking about Marty Turco's future, Lehtonen's role for next season, and any other tricks he has up his sleeve.
But, we should not rule out the possibility that games like tonight may in fact help him put the picture in the frame over the summer. I am not sure that is great idea - let's say he gets shelled in his next 3 starts - then what are you going to do? There are no returns on trades in the NHL.
So far, there have been talks about two things with Kari. 1) his size is impressive and 2) his conditioning is not where it needs to be. So, let me be the first to say I would like to debate issue #3 soon, and that is whether he is the type of guy for the Stars to hitch their wagon to for the next several years as the man between the pipes. I want to see a performance that makes me wonder how good he can be, rather than the current feeling that he is a reasonable backup. The Stars need a #1, and hope Kari is that guy.
* Versus and Directv have kissed and made up!!! - I know as humans, we are generally conditioned to care far more about issues that directly affect us, so, allow me to say that this has been on my mind for 6 months that channel 603 on my Directv has merely been a message screen. Now, you might be saying, Bob, just switch to a provider that has Versus if you want it so bad, but I can't since Directv is the only provider with the NFL Sunday Ticket, I am staying with them as I have since 1996.
Versus during the regular season is not that great, but in the playoffs, they become a vital piece in the hockey fan's life. Think about it, by the conference finals they have exclusive coverage rights. That means that even if the Stars are in the finals, we would still need Versus to see it! But, more realistically, a Penguins-Capitals Eastern Conference Finals would merely have been a rumor for me, so yes, I am very excited that the two big media companies made nice and now the fans can enjoy the fruits of the resurgence of hockey.
While Stars fans may never remember this season for the victories and the glory of the Stars' accomplishments, I think we can all take some pleasure in knowing hockey is on its way back with the Olympics, and the popularity of Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. This sport is making strides, so having it available for everyone to see is an obvious and key point. Versus is still not NBC or ESPN, but they do show a remarkable commitment to the sport in the playoffs that would be a shame for anyone with interest to miss.
And now, I won't! That made me happy yesterday.
I hope Kari makes us happy tonight. See you at the rink.