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Lehtonen gets first preseason start today

ATLANTA - It won't be a normal preseason game tonight for Atlanta Thrashers' Kari Lehtonen. In a surprise move, coach Bob Hartley has thrown open the competition to be the team's No. 1 goalie.

Lehtonen, the incumbent, will play for the first time this preseason when the Thrashers host the St. Louis Blues at Philips Arena. The puck drops at 7:05 p.m.

Johan Hedberg, who will compete with Lehtonen for the No. 1 job, was in net for a 4-3 overtime victory against the New York Islanders on Monday at North Bay, Ont.

The Thrashers are 2-1-0 in the preseason, with prospect Ondrej Pavelec starting the other two games. One was a 4-1 victory over the Blues at St. Louis in the preseason opener. St. Louis is 0-2-0 in the preseason.

In addition to Lehtonen, tonight also will feature the preseason debut of Marian Hossa. He led the Thrashers with 43 goals and 100 points last season.

But the attention will be on Lehtonen, who finds his starting role in jeopardy.

The 23-year-old from Finland played in 68 of the Thrashers' 82 regular-season games last season, but gave way to the veteran Hedberg for two of the four games during the first-round playoff sweep by the New York Rangers.

After tonight, the Thrashers will have three more preseason games. They host the Predators, who beat them 5-3 on Thursday in Nashville, next Tuesday, then play the Florida Panthers on the road next Wednesday and at home next Friday.

The regular-season opener is Oct. 5 against Washington and the Thrashers will raise their Southeast Division championship banner that night.

The Thrashers will practice in Philips Arena today at 10 a.m. and it will be open to the public. General manager Don Waddell will address fans about this season and Hartley will wear a microphone during part of the practice.

SideBar: BLUES AT THRASHERS

When: Today, 7 p.m.

Where: Philips Arena

Next: Nashville at Atlanta, Tuesday, 7 p.m.