Preview: Stars Get Wild Saturday

Remember the 2015-16 Minnesota Wild, the team which fell victim to the Dallas Stars in the first round of the playoffs last spring? Good. Now forget about them, because the Wild club rolling into Dallas on Saturday night is a completely different, and much more dangerous, animal.

This season’s Wild enter tonight’s contest against the Stars two points behind the Western Conference-leading Chicago Blackhawks, who have played five more games. Their goal differential of plus-44 ranks second in the NHL. Just three teams average more than Minnesota’s 3.23 goals per game; only one allows fewer goals per game than the Wild’s 2.10.

The Wild can score goals in bunches; Thursday night, they torched Montreal’s all-world netminder Carey Price for seven goals on just 24 shots. When they lose, which isn’t often, they lose small — just two of Minnesota’s losses this season have come by more than one goal.

What does this mean for the Stars? Coach Lindy Ruff addressed the question after Friday’s practice:

Minnesota is 8-0-2 in their last 10 road games. Dallas is 4-1-2 in their last seven home games. Against the Wild tonight, the Stars face their toughest test of the new year.

Minnesota Wild at Dallas Stars

American Airlines Center – 7:00 pm CST

Broadcast channels – FS-SW, FS-N, FS-WI

2016-17 Season Series: October 29 – Wild 4, Stars 0

November 21 – Stars 3, Wild 2 (OT)

Minnesota Wild: 26-9-5  57 Points

Road Record: 12-5-5

Hot Players: Eric Staal, Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Matt Dumba and Jared Spurgeon 

Key Injuries: Victor Bartley

Projected lines:


Mikael Granlund – Mikko Koivu – Jason Zucker

Zach Parise – Eric Staal – Charlie Coyle

Jason Pominville – Erik Haula – Nino Niederreiter

Chris Stewart – Tyler Graovac – Jordan Schroeder


Ryan Suter – Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella – Matt Dumba

Christian Folin – Jonas Brodin


Darcy Kuemper


Dallas Stars: 18-17-8 – 44 Points

Home Record: 12-6-4

Hot Players: Jason Spezza, John Klingberg, Patrick Sharp, Radek Faksa and Lauri Korpikoski

Key Injuries: Jamie Oleksiak, Mattias Janmark and Ales Hemsky

Projected lines:


Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Eaves

Lauri Korpikoski – Radek Faksa – Patrick Sharp

Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Jason Spezza

Jiri Hudler – Devin Shore – Brett Ritchie


Esa Lindell – John Klingberg

Dan Hamhuis – Jordie Benn

Johnny Oduya – Stephen Johns


Antti Niemi

Game Notes

[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]1)[/miptheme_dropcap] One of the keys to Minnesota’s success this season has been Eric Staal’s revival. The longtime Carolina Hurricane saw his point totals decline for three straight seasons, bottoming out in 2015-16, when he was dealt to the New York Rangers at the trade deadline. After Staal posted a combined total of 13 goals and 26 assists in 83 games last season, many folks around the NHL thought his career all but over at age 32. The Wild took a chance on the Cup-winning former ‘Canes captain, signing him to a three-year deal at $3.5 million per. Their gamble paid off, as Staal leads his new team in scoring with 14 goals and 24 assists in 40 games.

[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]2)[/miptheme_dropcap] Another key for the Wild has been the play of goaltender Devan Dubnyk. Edmonton’s first-round draft pick in 2003, Dubnyk struggled for a few years on some bad Oilers teams. Between January and July of 2014, he was traded first to Nashville, then Montreal, before signing with Arizona as a free agent. Two years ago today, the Coyotes dealt the netminder to Minnesota, where he has blossomed. Among goalies who have played at least nine games this season, Dubnyk’s save percentage (.940) and goals-against average (1.77) are tops, while his five shutouts are bested only by Braden Holtby’s six.

[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]3)[/miptheme_dropcap] Fortunately for Dallas, Minnesota will apparently save Dubnyk for Sunday’s game in Chicago. The Stars will face backup netminder Darcy Kuemper, whose numbers this season (.902 save percentage/3.21 goals-against average) have been quite unimpressive.

[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]4)[/miptheme_dropcap] Saturday’s game starts at 7:00 p.m. Central, but Stars fans should plan to arrive extra-early to check out the NHL Centennial Fan Arena. Drive a virtual reality Zamboni, check out vintage NHL sweaters (yes, they used to be made entirely of wool) and equipment, and get your picture taken with the Stanley Cup. Today is the last day, so don’t miss out.

[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]5)[/miptheme_dropcap] Not counting Patrick Eaves’ empty-netter, three of Dallas’ four goals against Detroit Thursday night were scored from just outside the crease. A couple of weeks ago, Devin Shore spoke of going to the net to “bang home the loose change.” Last week, Brett Ritchie said something very similar. The Stars are averaging 3.11 goals per game over their last nine contests, so it looks like the team has fully embraced the “crash the net” mindset. The resulting goals may not make any highlight reels, but they all count the same.