Two teams heading in very different directions clash on Sunday when the Dallas Stars travel to take on the Minnesota Wild. Since the All-Star break, the Stars have gone 8-2-1 while the Wild has gone 4-8. Minnesota has dropped seven of its past nine games, including a 5-4 loss Friday in Buffalo, while Dallas is coming off three straight victories.
Because of the recent runs from both clubs, the Stars now trail Minnesota by only two points for the third seed in the Central Division. With a victory tonight, Dallas can catch the Wild, although Minnesota would still hold the tiebreaker with one fewer game played.
Oettinger Returning Home
Sunday will be a homecoming for Lakeville, Minnesota native, Jake Oettinger. Although he has played in Minnesota previously in his NHL career, it came in relief of Anton Khudobin during a 7-2 smackdown at the hands of the Wild last fall. Today, he will likely get to start in front of a large crowd of family and friends.
“If you said five years ago, I would potentially be starting against the Wild, I don’t know if I’d believe you,” Oettinger said. “I’ve come a long way and been through a lot of stuff, so these are the trips that make all the work and all of the grind really worth it. To share it with the people that helped get you here is really what’s most important.”
Oettinger’s cheering section should not be hard to identify in the crowd in Minnesota. Because of a fun idea from Stars Social Media Manager Courtney Kramer, many fans can now sport an “Otter” shirt, stemming from a cartoon otter Courtney drew on social media.
Braden Holtby started the previous game against the Winnipeg Jets and played well but Oettinger had played seven straight games prior to that. This will be a big test and a huge opportunity for the 23-year-old goaltender.
“It’s a lot, but it’s also fun,” Bowness said of Oettinger’s rapid development. “It’s all part of the experience and you’ve got to go through it at least once. This is a great time for him, and he’s earned the right to be here. His character, he’s a real pro, a mature, mature kid.”
Stars Possibly Shorthanded Again
Friday’s game in Winnipeg was a rare occurrence of Dallas missing some key players from their normally healthy lineup. Both Tyler Seguin and Miro Heiskanen missed the game with non-COVID-related illnesses.
On Saturday, Seguin was on the ice for an optional practice while Heiskanen remained absent. Without a morning skate Sunday, both players will remain game-time decisions although Bowness did say that Seguin “should be ready to go”.
Without two key players, both of which serve time on the power play and penalty kill, Dallas had to make some adjustments. On Friday, Esa Lindell and Jacob Peterson were promoted to the power-play. The unit did not perform well, going 0-3 on the night. Expect youngster Thomas Harley to get his first taste on the Stars power play Sunday if Heiskanen remains out of the lineup.
Wild Scouting Report
Minnesota was one of the best teams in the league until recently. They have not won a home game since Valentine’s Day and have won only two games in their last nine overall. Their latest, a loss to Buffalo in regulation, was especially frustrating as Minnesota held a 3-2 lead with less than 10 minutes remaining in the game.
“We have had a tough couple weeks,” said Wild forward Kevin Fiala. “It’s not a secret, but in the team, in the room, it doesn’t feel like anything. So I’m confident we’ll be fine Sunday.”
No surprise, Kirill Kaprizov leads the Wild with 68 points in 52 games. The second-year player had a slow start to the season but has picked up his play since. Former Star Mats Zuccarello is another Wild player with more than a point-per-game pace. He currently has 54 points in 45 games, just second to Karpisov.
The Wild may have some help with the possible return of Jordan Greenway and Matt Dumba, who have both missed a handful of games due to injury.
- Tyler Seguin skated yesterday after missing Friday’s game with an illness and “should be ready to go”
- Miro Heiskanen did not skate yesterday after missing Friday’s game due to illness and is a game-time decision–Heiskanen has missed only a handful of games in his entire career
- “I’m hoping they play Sunday, I’ll tell you that.” – Rick Bowness
He Said It
“It’s definitely what we wanted to do,” Jason Robertson said. “Honestly, we are not content with being where we are, we want to be up there with the top teams. We can only control these next games and winning these two points so we can’t lull over that.”
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!