The Dallas Stars continue their three-game homestand against the streaking Minnesota Wild on Thursday night at the American Airlines Center.
Stars Look to Build Off Latest Performance
The Stars are coming off perhaps their best defensive performance of the season. On Tuesday, they held the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning to just 25 shots and zero goals on the board in an intense 1-0 victory on home ice. It was a much-needed performance after a chaotic month and a few poor performances on the defensive end of the ice.
“You have to be able to compete, you have to play with emotion and passion, but there has got to be some structure to it,” Bowness said. “We had that. That is a great hockey club over there and they are going to make you work but we made them work.”
The Stars have been disappointed with their defensive numbers this season. Although they usually sit in the top five in most categories, they have been middle of the pack this season and have struggled to put up elite numbers on either side of the puck. In the final stretch of the season, rediscovering their defensive structure will be a vital key to their success and an eventual playoff position.
“It’s preparation from our players,” Rick Bowness said. “We go over the video and we reinforce the points that we want to make in terms of our tactics, it is just reinforcing the good things we did. When we play like that, that’s the team that went to the finals in the bubble. When we’re hard to play against, we are above guys, and we are not giving them a whole lot of time, that’s when we are on top of our game.”
Wedgewood Gets Second Straight Start
Not many people would have predicted Scott Wedgewood getting back-to-back starts ahead of Jake Oettinger in the final 10 games of the season with the playoffs on the line. Yet, that is exactly what will happen tonight as he will start against the Wild after an impressive 25-save shutout of the Lightning on Tuesday night.
“He’s playing great,” Rick Bowness said this morning. “He got a shutout, that’s a no-brainer.”
Wedgewood has done nothing but impress since coming over at the trade deadline. He is 3-0-1 with a .922 save percentage and 2.67 goals against average. For the 29-year-old netminder, he is simply taking things one game at a time and working to help his team in any capacity he can.
“I said it on day one, I am all in with these guys to go for it,” Wedgewood said in a phone interview. “Whether I play five games, three games, or eight games, it doesn’t matter.”
Wild Scouting Report
The Minnesota Wild has exceeded expectations in the 2021-22 season. They currently sit second only to the high-flying Colorado Avalanche in the Central Division and are on a 7-1-2 run in their last 10 games.
“They are playing really good hockey.” Bowness said. “They are physical, they forecheck well, they break the puck out really well, it’s a five-man rush, they are playing really well, they are on top of their game.”
After some contract issues and injuries, Kirill “The Thrill” Kaprizov has hit his stride for the Wild. The 24-year-old has racked up 42 goals and 91 points in 71 games and seems to put on a show every time he touches the ice, especially when his opponent is the Dallas Stars (4 goals, 5 assists and a plus-minus of +2 in 3 games against the Stars in his career). His chemistry with former Star and long-time New York Ranger Mats Zuccarello is something the Stars will need to work hard against in their own zone in this matchup.
“You just watch them handle the puck, they are always moving for each other and they make those quick little passes that as a defender, sometimes the puck goes through your skates or in the triangle between your stick and your feet,” Bowness said. “What they want you to do is like when I coached the [Sedin] twins in Vancouver, they want you to chase the puck. If you chase the puck, these guys will make you look bad. You have to stay with them, you can’t just start chasing the puck.”
- Vladislav Namestnikov has been deemed week-to-week after suffering a lower-body injury early in Tuesday’s game against the Lightning. He is not scheduled to travel with the team on their upcoming road trip so he will certainly be out tonight and in Saturday’s home game
- Alexander Radulov will re-enter the lineup tonight after missing Tuesday’s game with an illness
He Said It
“They are battling for home-ice advantage and we are battling for a playoff spot, so it should be a really good game,” John Klingberg said.
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Sam Nestler is a credentialed Dallas Stars contributor for the ‘The Hockey Writers’. Growing up in New Jersey, Sam has been playing hockey since he was 7 years old. Developing a love for writing in college, Sam uses his hockey knowledge to create analyses and articles on every aspect of the game. Sam also hosts his own podcast on Spotify, the “Slapshot Sammy’ podcast, breaking down action across the Stars, the NHL, and college hockey. Check out the podcast here, and give his latest article a read!