Minnesota Wild (18-10-2, 38 pts) @ Dallas Stars (15-13-3, 33 pts)
8:30 PM CT
American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas
The Wild – 4th in the West
Goals – 19th, Goals Against – 4th, Power Play – 14th, Penalty Kill – 3rd
Much like the Stars much publicized back-to-back troubles of the past couple of seasons, the Wild also have a dubious losing streak of their own. In the past 10 years (10!), the Wild have gone 0-11-5 against the Stars in Dallas.
Throw in their road troubles as a whole this season and, despite how much the Wild have improved, the Stars really shouldn’t feel like they’re on the ropes tonight.
Minnesota has won five games in a row and seven of their last eight. Three of those have been on the road. Those three road wins got their road record this season back to 7-7-1 though.
Things have just been clicking for Minnesota. Niklas Backstrom is playing his best hockey of the season and has allowed three or more goals in only three of the last 10 games.
The offense has been scoring in bunches since some early season struggles and have scored three or goals in five of the last seven games. Their power play has scored at least one goal in 11 of the last 13 games.
The Wild have five players with 20+ points: Mikko Koivu, Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi. As such, each of those five guys have been on some nice scoring streaks heading into tonight’s game.
The biggest threat right now is, perhaps surprisingly, sudden Norris Trophy candidate Ryan Suter. Suter has 14 points this month (two points and 12 assists) and has points in all but two games this month. He’s been on a roll and has been the running force in their power play. He’s second in the NHL among defensemen in points.
The other guy they need to watch is Matt Cullen. Cullen had a six-game point streak before having it broken in their last game against the Sharks. He’s been an assist machine the past month and has been able to hide before the bigger names of the team.
Backstrom will be in net tonight. The only injury concern is depth-winger Michael Rupp (lower body). Rupp is a game-time decision tonight.
Possible line combos:
Parise – Koivu – Heatley
Bouchard – Cullen – Setoguchi
Coyle – Brodziak – Clutterbuck
Dowell – Zonopka – Mitchell
Suter – Brodin
Gilbert – Spurgeon
Falk – Stoner
Dallas – 8th in the West
Goals – 15th, Goals Against – 22nd, Power Play – 20th, Penalty Kill – 13th
It’s the start of a new era tonight as the Stars enter their first game since the 2006-2007 season without Brenden Morrow as their captain. Captain Morrow was shipped off to the Pittsburgh Penguins for another Morrow (Joe).
It’ll be a weird game for Dallas. How do they respond to the loss of one of the few emotional leaders that was left on the team, especially with some more trades probable on the horizon? It’ll be really interesting to see how the team comes out tonight.
Dallas has been playing well though as of late. They’ve won three of the past four games and have been riding Kari Lehtonen. The offense has been playing well with three or more goals in three of those four games.
For Dallas to win tonight, it'll be the same as usual. Lehtonen needs to be the man again tonight. The Wild have been hot on offense lately and will be peppering Lehtonen with shots. On offense, Jamie Benn really needs to step it up tonight. He's the obvious choice for future captain and needs to show up for the team tonight. He had three assists last game, but hasn't scored a goal in 11 games. A little scoring touch from Benny boy would be nice.
Aaron Rome will be back tonight from his foot injury and take Benn’s spot in the lineup.
Lehtonen will be back in net and hopefully still on a roll tonight.
Possible line combos:
Nystrom – Benn – Jagr
Whitney – Roy – Eriksson
Cole – Eakin – Smith
Vincour – Fiddler – Roussel
Dillon – Robidas
Goligoski – Daley
Larsen – Rome