Friday, February 24th, 2012, 7:30 PM CST
American Airlines Center
Opponent Blog: Hockey Wilderness
The Stars went 2-0 on their mini-road trip, defeating the Montreal Canadiens in impressive fashion with a 3-0 victory and then staging a third period comeback last night in Chicago to give the Blackhawks their first regulation loss of the season when leading after two periods.
"We're all looking for that run at this time of the year, but the reality is it is very tough," said Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan. "Picking up two points whenever you can get them, especially in a tough building like this, is good. Now we've got to win at home."
Awaiting them at home, is that stat again. You know the one. It sits now at 0-9-2, and no one wants to hear about it. That's the Stars record on the second night of back to back sets. They're 3-6-1 against teams playing on the second night of their back to back set. The Wild, however, have not won in Dallas since the 2002-2003 season. The Stars are 15-0 at the AAC against Minnesota in that time. So something has to give tonight.
Minnesota broke a seven game losing streak in style Sunday night, shutting out the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins at home 2-0, and then followed it up last night with a 3-2 shootout win in Florida. They've scored just 14 goals in their last 10 games.
The teams have split two contests this year, but the Stars' win at home was after a skills competition, meaning Minnesota has taken three points out of the meetings to Dallas' two. Minnesota sits just three back of eighth place (now tied at 66 between Dallas, Calgary and Los Angeles) and just one point ahead of the Anaheim Ducks, who also won last night.
More on each team after the jump...
"We got a big goal from Otter and we just kept coming after that," said Loui Eriksson. "We got the lead there in the end and it was two real big points. We've to got keep building here."
If they're to keep building, they'll do so once again without their best player in Jamie Benn. A leg laceration and charlie horse has kept Benn out of five straight games now, but there is at least hope he'll be able to play Sunday afternoon when the Canucks come calling.
That means the forward lines will remain some combination of what they have been recently, with Ryan Garbutt in and Mike Ribeiro leading a top line with Loui Eriksson and Michael Ryder. Adam Burish came back in last night after missing a game with an illness and was very effective. Toby Petersen saw game action once again with Jake Dowell on the shelf. Matt Fraser is a possibility tonight but we'll revisit it after morning skate.
Lines started like this last night...
Seven minutes in Robidas had been paired with Sheldon Souray, who made an effective return, and Philip Larsen with Alex Goligoski, and that's what we'd expect to see tonight.
For the forward group, those lines held for the most part but later in the game Ott took more and more shifts with Burish and Garbutt, eventually getting the game tying goal, while Wandell and Vincour skated with Petersen a couple of times. It will be interesting to see how he puts those lines together tonight after all of that shuffling.
Richard Bachman was fantastic last night, emulating what Kari Lehtonen does on so many evenings: Keeping the Stars in it and giving them a chance to win the game late, which they then did. Having him play in Chicago has now paid off, in theory, as they'll get a rested Kari Lehtonen tonight while the Wild roll out a Backstrom that played last night, or Matt Hackett.
From Stars PR: "Friday's game between the Stars and Wild features two of the top-three winningest Finnish-born goaltenders in NHL history. Nicklas Backstrom (MIN) and Kari Lehtonen (DAL) are tied for second with 156 victories while Mikka Kiprusoff (CGY) is first with 303 victories."
Minnesota, curiously, went into last night's game against the Panthers 0-6-1 on the first night of a back-to-back. Coach Mike Yeo told Michael Russo of the Star Tribune that he didn't want to talk about Dallas on Thursday morning, feeling that their focus on the second game of back-to-back sets has perhaps distracted them from the first.
(Side note: Why have the Wild played just eight back to back sets compared to Dallas' twelve?)
The Wild exchanged power play goals with the Florida Panthers last night and took a 2-2 game to a shootout where they were victorious, picking up the extra point and inching forward along with the Stars, Ducks, Coyotes, and Flames. Minnesota allowed 43 shots last night and went 16 minutes at one point without a shot themselves. Niklas Backstrom was, reportedly, stellar in the win and it sounds like he needed to be.
The Wild play 10 of their last 14 games at home, giving them at least a partial advantage in the playoff race down the stretch, not unlike the Flames.
C Mikko Koivu, G Josh Harding, D Mike Lundin, Carson McMillan, D Clayton Stoner, RW Pierre-Marc Bouchard, RW Jarod Palmer and LW Guillaume Latendresse are out for the Wild.
The Wild made some news when they recalled goaltender Matt Hackett to join Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom. Rumors of a trade swirled but now it appears that Harding was injured and that he's now sick. He backed up Backstrom last night and could even play in Dallas Friday night. Hackett is 2-0 this year in three appearances, so it could be the shakeup they need to finally get a win at the AAC.
The Wild Lineup: