Stars-Wild Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 20, 2013
While the Minnesota Wild made big news before the lockout with a pair of high-profile signings, the Dallas Stars didn't get as much attention when they brought in two of the league's top active scorers. Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney, though, played a big part in the Stars' season-opening win and will try to help them earn another victory when Dallas returns to its former home Sunday night. After missing the playoffs for a fourth straight season, Minnesota took some significant measures to end that drought by inking Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to 13-year contracts, each worth $98 million. In his Wild debut Saturday, Parise assisted on each of Dany Heatley's second-period goals in a 4-2 victory over Colorado. Suter had a much quieter debut, taking one shot and receiving two penalty minutes. "I was smiling the day we signed those guys, and I'm still smiling," Heatley said. "They've added a huge element to our team." Former first-round draft pick Mikael Granlund also scored in the second period of his NHL debut, and Pierre-Marc Bouchard also found the net in his first game for the Wild (1-0-0) since Jan. 4, 2012. Bouchard was limited to 37 games in 2011-12 because of concussion-like symptoms. Minnesota will next try to win its first two games for the first time since starting 4-0-0 in 2008-09. Dallas, meanwhile, will attempt to pull off that feat for the second time in three seasons with help from its 40-year-old veterans. Jagr had two goals and two assists, including one on Loui Eriksson's go-ahead score in the third period, in a 4-3 home win over Phoenix on Saturday. Whitney, meanwhile, registered a goal and an assist against his former team. "It was special. The first game is always special," said Jagr, the NHL's active leader in goals and assists. "We only had one week in training camp and I've got to get used to the new teammates. "Hopefully it is going to get better as I play more with my linemates." Jagr is also eighth on the all-time points list with 1,657 and has a chance to pass former teammate Mario Lemieux (1,723) if he can significantly improve on his career-low 54 points with Philadelphia last season, his first NHL campaign since 2007-08. Whitney surpassed 1,000 points in the final of his two seasons in Phoenix and had a team-best 77 in 2011-12. He has five goals and six assists in his last seven visits to Minnesota, and he tallied one of each in a 4-2 win for Phoenix on Dec. 31. Jagr has nine points in his last four games against Minnesota (two goals, seven assists) and had a pair of assists in a 5-1 home victory for Philadelphia on Jan. 17, 2012. If Kari Lehtonen gets the start, the Stars (1-0-0) might have a good chance at their fourth straight win over Minnesota. Lehtonen gave up a combined two goals in the final three matchups last season. With their new players, though, the Wild will have a chance to end their skid to the former Minnesota North Stars. Parise matched a career high with four points (one goal, three assists) in his final matchup with Dallas last season, a 6-3 win for New Jersey on Dec. 16, 2011. Minnesota's top goaltender, Niklas Backstrom, is 0-2-2 with a 3.52 goals-against average in his last four games against the Stars, while backup Josh Harding stopped 23 shots in a 5-2 home victory Jan. 21.
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