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Lehtonen named December’s top goalie

The American Hockey League announced today that Kari Lehtonen of the Chicago Wolves has been named the Koho AHL Goaltender of the Month for December. In 10 starts last month, Lehtonen posted a record of 9-1-0 with a 1.70 goals-against average, a .948 save percentage and two shutouts, leading the Wolves into first place in the AHL’s West Division.

Lehtonen began December with a 31-save performance in a 2-1 overtime win at Hamilton on Dec. 3, then suffered his only loss of the month one night later, making 30 saves in a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the defending Calder Cup champion Milwaukee Admirals. Lehtonen proceeded to win his next eight outings, beginning with a 31-save shutout of Utah on Dec. 7. He made 38 stops in a 3-2 victory at Grand Rapids on Dec. 11, earned another shutout on Dec. 18 vs. San Antonio and made a career-high 45 saves in a 6-2 win over Milwaukee on Dec. 26.

In recognition of his achievement, Lehtonen will be presented with an etched crystal award prior to an upcoming Wolves home game.

A native of Helsinki, Finland, the 21-year-old Lehtonen is 18-8-1 on the season with a 2.12 goals-against average and four shutouts. He leads the AHL in wins and ranks third with a .935 save percentage. The second overall pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, Lehtonen is in his second season in the Atlanta Thrashers organization, and was named the minor pro prospect of the year by The Hockey News in 2004.

Other nominees for Koho AHL Goaltender of the Month include Billy Thompson of Binghamton, Wade Dubielewicz of Bridgeport, Nolan Schaefer of Cleveland, Jason LaBarbera of Hartford, Peter Budaj of Hershey, Cam Ward of Lowell, Adam Hauser of Manchester, Wade Flaherty of Manitoba, Maxime Ouellet of Portland, Hannu Toivonen of Providence, Ryan Miller of Rochester, Patrick DesRochers of San Antonio, Brian Eklund of Springfield, Jean-Sebastien Aubin of St. John’s, Karl Goehring of Syracuse, Jean-Marc Pelletier of Utah, Marc-Andre Fleury of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Jason Bacashihua of Worcester.