Born November 16, 1983 (age 28) in Helsinki, Finland
Goaltender for the Dallas Stars
This guy was a beastly brick wall and spoiled the Blackhawks’ season opener on Friday, so I should at least show him some respect. Kari’s career started with SM-liiga’s Jokerit team, where he won awards for best goalie of the year and most valuable player. When he was drafted second overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2002, he became the highest drafted European goalie in league history. After spending one more year in Finland, he joined the Thrashers’ AHL team in Chicago and spent his first season there, only being called four times to Atlanta. He stayed in Chicago during the Year That Never Was, and when the 2005-06 season started, he went to the ATL as their starter.
Of course, things don’t always work out so well. On opening night, Nathan Horton (then with the Florida Panthers) collided with him, and he suffered a groin injury that sidelined him for 35 games. Then in April 2006, he sprained his ankle during a game against Tampa Bay. But his next season was better, and he broke franchise records all over the place. He also became the starting goaltender for the Thrashers when they made their first playoff appearance! But in the beginning of the 2007-08 season, he suffered another groin injury and was out till December. He did manage to salvage the season by earning four shutouts and a .916 save percentage.
He spent one more season with the Thrashers before being sent back to Chicago, and on February 9, 2010 he was traded to the Dallas Stars. He signed a three-year deal with them before last season and racked up a GAA of 2.55 and a .914 save percentage. Seriously, if he’s as tough for the rest of the season as he was on Friday, the Stars will be tough to beat this season.