Where as once the Minnesota Wild seemed inexorably linked with the Flames and Oilers as the conference's worst trio, they now find themselves riding an astounding 7-2-1 streak, second only to the Vancouver Canucks in the West. Yes, the Wild have saved their season with a stellar stretch and there's no doubt they enter this game riding much higher than the Dallas Stars have been of late having lost five of eight.
The Stars, coming off their fifth straight loss at home, face a confident team that just beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh. Convincingly, 4-0 no less. Colorado and Boston are also recent Wild victims, proving they're no joke. The only other meeting these two have had came in a 4-3 OT win in Dallas on December 4th.
Minnesota has been extremely stingy as of late, allowing a total of only two goals in their last three games.
This will, of course, be the first game for Jamie Langenbrunner in a Stars uniform since re-joining his former team on Friday after a trade from the New Jersey Devils. Jamie is expected to wear #15, like old times, and play on the Stars third line with Steve Ott and Adam Burish with special teams time possibly coming as well.
Dallas has had luck on the road on Sunday afternoons coming from behind to beat both the Blues and Red Wings in the last month.
Continued after the jump...
Karlis Skrastins and Matt Niskanen will remain out for Dallas on defense until likely next weekend against Atlanta at the earliest. This leaves Mark Fistric and Philip Larsen in the lineup and another look at the young Stars Danish prospect on the PP where he had many shots and opportunities against the Rangers on Friday but nothing to show for it.
Stephane Robidas is still wearing a boot due to a bone bruise but is expected to continue playing through that pain. Brad Richards has a broken toe and was neutralized effectively by the Rangers Friday.
Lagnebrunner has had only the one practice with Dallas and therefore will be behind, system-wise. He said on Saturday that on some level "hockey is hockey" but we've seen how much better the team as a whole has done after a year of Crawford's system in place, so don't be surprised if there's hiccups or general ineffectiveness with Lags tomorrow. It's going to take time, most likely. A 35 year old third line veteran is not here to improve things over night.
Crawford has not named a starting goaltender yet and will do so on Sunday at morning skate. Kari Lehtonen has allowed only two goals in each of his last three starts, but it's been nearly two weeks since Raycroft's last start in Nashville. Don't be surprised to see the backup in net if that indeed is in the decision.
After reacquiring one of the key components to their lone Stanley Cup championship, the Dallas Stars hope to see Langenbrunner pay immediate dividends Sunday as they look to extend their road winning streak to seven against a Wild team seeking a fifth straight victory.
I disagree. Anyone who is looking for "immediate dividends" is....hasty.
Even though they combined for a goal on Friday, either Segal, Sutherby or Barch will be scratched with Langenbrunner pushing Wandell to the fourth line.
Goaltender Niklas Backstrom is injured for the Wild but that hardly seems to matter as the club is on a 7-2-1 tear through the West, resurrecting their season from an extended stay in 13th place through much of December.
Jose Theodore has been more than adequate in relief but there is thought out there that this could possibly be rookie's Anton Khudobin's start tonight in Minneapolis.
Former Star Antti Miettinen is thought to be questionable with a lower body/leg injury.
Hockey Wilderness talks about the team's huge win in Pittsburgh last night:
Goals of all varieties came tonight. Chuck Kobasew opened the scoring when a Mikko Koivu shot deflected off his body and past Marc-Andre Fleury. Less than five minutes later, Martin Havlat buried a rebound from a Pierre-Marc Bouchard shot after driving hard to the net. The Wild ended the first period up 2-0 and tied in shots at 10. Minnesota came out hard in the second period, beating the Pens to loose pucks, working hard and creating scoring chances, but couldn't beat Fleury with any of the 18 shots they put on him. Luckily though, the Wild controlled the play, and Jose Theodore continued his domination over Pittsburgh. Since coming into the league, only Martin Brodeur has beaten the Penguins more and only Patrick Lalime has a better goals against average. Theodore just has their number.
We look forward to seeing everyone in the GDT this afternoon. We can talk NFL playoffs as well if you like. We'll be paying attention to both.