Preview: Dallas Stars Falling Out of Playoff Picture; Face Minnesota Wild Back-to-Back

Ronald Martinez

January continues to be a bottomless pit for Dallas, who must take on Minnesota again back-to-back on national television this evening.

The Dallas Stars, in an 82 game season, have dropped nine of their last ten games. Let's not sugar coat it this morning. It wouldn't be quite honest.

They've collected 3 of the last 20 points available to them and now must earn somewhere in the ballpark of 46 to 47 more points out of just 66 more up for grabs in their remaining 33 games if they're to get where they'd like.

They must go from playing .150 hockey for nearly a month to playing better than .700 hockey consistently with an Olympic break smashed in the middle.

It's not a very pretty picture.

Not after those fun New Years Eve memories where a streak against quality teams in the West and a share of the 8th spot had kindled hope. Hope is a tough thing to extinguish in sports fans. It keeps us coming back game after game. Year after year.

I don't think it's unfair to say that it's in short supply right now, at least where this particular season goes.

When told they couldn't make the playoffs last season they hauled off and rekindled that hope after the trade deadline, and nearly climbed the mountain. (Dallas Stars Earning National Attention With Magical Run At Postseason)

So we'll wait and see.

The coaching staff has no choice but to keep trying to pull the right strings and rearrange the pieces they have, so tonight perhaps Valeri Nichushkin will be back in the lineup. Maybe Kevin Connauton will go back out and Jordie Benn will come back in.

Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn were broken up last night to start the game, but it didn't last long, and Benn wasn't happy with this play in the first.

"I'll take the blame. I had three (turnovers) in the first period and they scored on two of them," Benn told the Morning News. "And when your leader and your captain is doing that, it's unacceptable, and I've definitely got to clean it up."

So that will get some attention from NBC tonight, and there's the back-to-back starting netminder issue. Dan Ellis has been pretty good at home and the Wild are 27th in the league in shots on goal, so it might be a good spot to get Kari Lehtonen some rest.

Those X's and O's feel a little hollow as talking points today.

About the only thing going well for the Stars right now is the power play, which has scored in four straight for the first time this season. They have 10 power play goals in their last 14 games overall.

Lindy Ruff simply wants his guys to stick together through this.

"We've got to battle this together. We've got to be a little more resilient," he said last night. "It's got to harden us. We've got to come out of this a better team knowing that a lot of these situations we have to learn from. It's hard. It eliminates the sleep. It's a serious gut check. You really have to hunker down and trust your teammates."

As for tonight, there's little to be said of Minnesota that wasn't covered Saturday. For them this is the second half of a home-and-home with Dallas, having enjoyed two days off between games.

They're not a great road team with a 9-12-3 mark, and their historic struggles at the American Airlines Center have been well documented after they broke an 0-11-5 streak in Dallas last season with a 7-4 win. It was their first here since March of 2003.

They'll again be without Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Jared Spurgeon, and goaltenders Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding.

That means Darcy Kuemper will make an other start, fresh off his 33 save performance Saturday on 35 shots. He is 4-1-0 since being recalled and boasts a 1.37 GAA and a gaudy .954 save percentage.

Puck drop is 30 minutes early tonight- A 7:00pm start on NBC Sports Network and TSN2 north of the border.

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