Karlis Skrastins returns for Dallas Stars

Updated: January 15, 2011, 5:52 PM ET
By Mark Stepneski | ESPNDallas.com

FARMERS BRANCH, Texas -- Karlis Skrastins will return to the Dallas Stars' lineup for Saturday's game against the Atlanta Thrashers, who are coming off a 5-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night.

Skrastins returns after missing three games following a collision with teammate Matt Niskanen during third-period warm-ups in a game against Chicago last week.

"He's a premier penalty-killer for us. He's a guy that's played in the league for a long time and understands points in the game that are vital and crucial and he plays accordingly. That's what you get from experienced defensemen," Stars coach Marc Crawford said of Skrastins. "We've gotten through the last number of games without him. I think Mark Fistric has played extremely well filling in for him. Tonight Mark will play the right side with him."

Kari Lehtonen will get the start in goal Saturday against the Thrashers.

Lehtonen, who was traded from Atlanta to the Stars last February, has started 33 of the Stars' 44 games, posting an 18-10-5 record, a 2.59 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.

"He's everything we hoped he could be. Probably a little bit more," Crawford said. "Everybody in the league knew he was a good goalie and if he could improve his conditioning and get over the injuries -- which were largely caused by a lack of conditioning -- there was a chance for him to be an elite goaltender. I think he's becoming an elite goaltender."

Mark Stepneski covers the Stars for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

Mark Stepneski

Mark Stepneski joined ESPNDallas.com in July 2010. A former news/special projects producer for KXAS-TV, he has run the Andrew's Dallas Stars Page website since 1997.