The Dallas Stars have their first five game win streak since January of 2009 and are looking for their first six game win streak since November of 2007 tonight as they take on the floundering Minnesota Wild.
The Stars won the season series last year, 3-1, winning both meetings at the American Airlines Center. The Wild started the season well and hold an 11-11-3 record despite the fact that they've now dropped six of their last seven games, and four of their last six on the road.
Despite these teams respective dichotomous stretches of hockey lately, only six points separate them in a ridiculously even Western Conference that can see anyone go from 2nd to 13th in the blink of an eye. The Stars' challenge tonight is to maintain the focus and defensive intensity they've carried with them since losing to a terrible Maple Leaf team on November 22nd, their last loss.
Over the course of the five game win-streak the Stars have allowed a total of just six goals.
If Dallas gets the win tonight they'd be only one decision away from tying the franchise mark of seven victories in a row.
More after the jump...
The last time these teams met in Dallas Cal Clutterbuck and Steve Ott met not once, but twice sans gloves and helmets. Look for the rematch if things get chippy, especially with Krys Barch out with a bum ankle/foot.
Dallas is 14-2-2 all time at home against the Wild.
Mark Fistric's IR time is greater than seven days now so he is eligible to return but word is he is not ready. That suits Dallas just fine, because Jeff Woywitka has been a steady presence and plus player in relief of Fistric. His confidence grows with each game as he returns to true "game shape," having sat out most of the first 20 games.
Toby Petersen injured a hand on Thursday night and is questionable tonight. Krys Barch is still nursing his foot. Should both players prove unable to go, 24 year old Aaron Gagnon, called up from the Texas Stars yesterday, could possibly go for Dallas and play limited 4th line minutes.
Kari Lehtonen will be in goal. Raycroft completed a masterful, scheduled start against the Capitals which was good for Kari who was battling some illness earlier in the week. He said he felt much better yesterday.
Minnesota lost to the Flames last night, 3-2 in a shootout, making it losses in six of their last seven games. NHL on The Fly included them in a list of coaches who might be on the hot seat promptly thereafter.
They won six of eight to start November but injuries and a dearth of offense has seen them plummet to the bottom of the Western standings. They rallied from a 2-1 deficit to force overtime but recorded only five SOG total in the third period and OT.
We'll be on the lookout for what Hockey Wilderness is calling "the second period nap"
Where was the second period nap? Delayed by the snowstorm, just like everyone else. The beginning of the third period was putrid, but the Wild found a way to stay in it. That is, until Alex Tanguay slipped behind the defenders and scored a relatively easy goal to put the Flames back on top.
After playing out the third, the tension grew as Wild fans everywhere knew if they didn't score in the extra five minutes, it would go to a shootout, and that would be that. The Wild found a way to end this game with a touch of disappointment, as they entered the shootout and fell flat again.
The Stars accumulated quite the "out-scored in the second period by xxx" total last season, so we are not wholly unfamiliar with 2nd period naps, and look forward to seeing someone else take one for once. For the Stars this year, the naps have definitely come in the first.