Dallas Stars (38-26-5, 81 pts) @ Minnesota Wild (29-30-10, 68 pts)
7:00 PM CT, March 13, 2012
Xcel Energy Center, Saint Paul, Minnesota
The red hot Dallas Stars look to continue their point streak tonight in a game against their northern rivals, the Minnesota Wild. After grueling games against some of the NHL's best, today's game against the Wild might be considered simple competition so Dallas needs to not have a letdown today and play to the level of the competition.
Dallas needs to come out hungry in this game or they'll fall into a monotonous lull that can kill a team. They're playing an untested goalie so they need to just plaster him with shots. The game tonight is first of a back-to-back so Dallas just needs to take care of business and move on. Play their game like they should and a win should follow.
It's all been sugar and sweets for the Stars lately. The goaltending has been stellar (like it has all season, Raycroft aside), the defensemen have been doing a better job holding down the fort in front of the goalies and now all four lines of forwards are producing results, even if it's not in the box score. The Stars have held up their level of play for the last month and it's resulted in the best run of games Dallas has had since the '99 Cup winning team. I would expect a dropoff soon, even if it's just a slight one. It's too difficult to keep up this play for another month. Dallas just needs to put enough points between them and their nearest division competitors.
The one thing that has plagued Dallas though has been injuries. Just as Brenden Morrow and Jake Dowell come back into the lineup, Sheldon Souray and Radek Dvorak suffer injuries that are expected to keep them out for a few games. This team just can't seem to stay fully healthy. It's lucky that this year's team has solid depth to make up for it or Dallas would be experiencing another March swoon. With Souray out, the Stars called up Jordie Benn as an emergency in case he's needed.
Turnovers are also still a problem, but I don't ever expect thtat to be fixed with this team. Dallas just needs to try and make sure they don't constantly result in golden scoring chances.
Dallas can probably count on Souray being out of this game with a lower body injury. Dvorak is questionable with an ankle problem and Jake Dowell is questionable as well with an illness. Whatever the case, it seems like Ryan Garbutt will be back in the lineup tonight to fill in the spot in the fourth line. If Dvorak and Dowell are both out, I would think the third line would be Nystrom-Fiddler-Vincour and the fourth line to be Garbutt-Wandell-Peterson.
Kari Lehtonen is in goal tonight. He's 2-1-0 against the Wild this year with a 2.19 GAA and a .927 save percentage. He's stopped 76 of 82 shots.
Notes and thoughts:
- Michael Ryder has points in nine straight games and 15 of his last 16. He's scored a goal in six of the last seven games. One more goal will set a career high for him. He had 30 goals in his second and third years with the Montreal Canadiens.
- Jamie Benn is two points shy of a career high. He currently has 55 points on the season and he still has 13 games to go. There's going to be plenty of career highs on the team this year.
- Brenden Morrow made a quick impression on the team in his return from his back/shoulder/neck injuries. He scored a power play goal and had six penalty minutes. It was a nice welcome back for the captain, though he really needs to stop taking penalties. He's played only 44 games this season but is still somehow second in the team in penalty minutes with 80 PIM. Steve Ott is first with 124 but he's played 62 games.
- The Stars' PK keeps on rolling. It's 20 of 20 in the last seven games.
- The power play is particularly effective but it has produced some results. Dallas is 3 of 14 in the last four games with the man advantage.
- Dallas is 18-14-2 on the road this season and have won five road games in a row by a combined 17-6 margin.
more after the jump
It's been a long long fall for the Minnesota Wild. It's difficult to remember that this team (currently 13th in the West) was first in the Western Conference in December. Since the beginning of January, the Wild have only won 8 of 29 games. They have not strung together a three game winning streak since Dec. 10 and have barely been able to win two in a row.
Niklas Backstrom suffered a groin injury two weeks ago and the already floundering Wild have been falling into an even deeper pit. In just six games this month, the Wild have given up 26 goals. Minnesota is now riding the unsteady hand of Matt Hackett. Hackett has given up 17 goals in just four games. Boil all those numbers together and you get a game that the Stars should win. A loss for them would be a travesty.
The Wild are dealing with injuries up and down the lineup. Besides Backstrom, the Wild will also be without defensemen Mike Lundin (hernia) and Justin Falk (leg). They will also be without forwards Mikko Koivu (shoulder), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion) and Guillaume Latendresse (concussion). Cal Clutterbuck is questionable with an illness.
Notes and thoughts:
- The Wild are 15-13-4 at home this season. They have lost three straight home games by a combined 10-3 score.
- Devin Setoguchi is the only guy doing anything on offense with some sort of consistency. He has a three game point streak.
- The Wild are 0 of 17 on the power play in the last seven games.
- Matt Hackett has faced an average of 35 shots in his four starts this month. Dallas needs to put the puck on net and force him to make saves.
- Jan. 21 @ Xcel Energy Center: Dallas 2 - Minnesota 5
- Feb. 4 @ American Airlines Center: Dallas 2 - Minnesota 1 (SO)
- Feb. 24 @ American Airlines Center: Dallas 4 - Minnesota 1
Goals per game 2.6 2.3 Shots per game 25.3 29.7 Hits per game 23 21.3 PIM per game 9 5.6 Power Play 1 of 5 (20%) 2 of 13 (15%) Penalty Kill 11 of 13 (85%) 4 of 5 (80%)
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