The Dallas Stars took another lopsided loss in front of the home crowd Monday night to these same Minnesota Wild, 7-4. As the trade deadline nears and the playoff situation looks bleak, the pressure to perform tonight is heavy.
Kari Lehtonen surrendered six on Monday and Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan knew it wasn't his netminder's best game, but also that he had an excess of traffic with which to deal.
"I thought he overplayed a couple things," said Gulutzan say Monday night, "but you give them that much rubber, traffic in front of him and those opportunities, your goalie is trying to bail you out all the time. It was too much. I think he certainly calmed down in the third but it was a lot to handle, a lot of zone time."
Decreasing the Wild's zone time may be easier said than done. Between these contests with Dallas Minnesota flew home to play Phoenix and took a 4-3 decision while generating nearly as many shots on goal as they did Monday (42) against the Coyotes with 37.
From Stars PR: "The Stars saw their 16-game home win streak over the Minnesota Wild come to an end Monday as the team lost to the Wild in Dallas for the first time since March 21, 2003. Dallas is 18-3-2 all time against the Wild at home for a .826 points percentage, the team's second-best home mark against any NHL team."
The puck drops tonight at 7:30pm on Fox Sports Southwest.
The three day break has allowed the Stars to purge a flu-like illness from their ranks and coaching staff. Combine that with maintenance days, practice, and further scouting of Minnesota as they took on Phoenix last night and the Stars hope they have a better recipe for contain the red-hot Wild this time around.
Dallas' lineup is unchanged from Monday, and aside from a Ryan Garbutt hand injury the team is healthy. Expect line combinations to start as they did Monday night...
Dallas turnovers fueled the seven-goal performance by Minnesota Monday, and when the Wild got the puck on their sticks they did the simple thing - Crash the net relentlessly. The resulting chaos in front of Lehtonen's net paid off time and time again. Look for Dallas to make simpler, safer plays tonight. A sharper game from Kari and better support around the net on loose pucks could go a long way toward reducing that seven goal total.
The Stars need to excel at home moving forward to make the playoffs. They have the worst home points percentage in the Western Conference (27th in the entire league). They've won just 7 of 16 home dates. They're allowing 3.34 goals against per game at the AAC. Their last five home losses have come at an average deficit of 3.6 goals per. In four of the five, the Ducks game being the exception, they've lost by four of more goals.
After the game Monday, when asked about the Wild's shot total, Glen Gulutzan pointed to their top trio of Praise, Coyle and Koivu.
"We couldn't contain that one line," Gulutzan said. "I don't know how many shots they got. I haven't looked but we couldn't contain them. We went through our whole batting order there until we finally had to put together a different line to see if we could contain them."
They accounted for 13 of the 42 shots, and 18 of the 66 shot attempts - Not even a quarter of the "possession" Minnesota had. It was spread throughout the lineup, and came from forwards primarily. Defensemen had just 5 of the 42. Wild forwards out-shot Dallas forwards 37-18.
Minnesota needed a little bit of late third period magic to win their seventh in a row in Phoenix after the Coyotes reportedly had the better of the play through 59 minutes. The Star Tribune explains...
"We can play better," a relieved Koivu said. "Phoenix made it hard for us. But you try to find a way to make a play when you can."
"I don't know if we would have handled this as well, trailing in the third period, at the beginning of the season," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "I just don't think we played a good game, but we found a way to win."
Suter's tying goal came with 54 seconds remaining in the third period. With goalie Niklas Backstrom pulled, Suter's shot from the left circle forced overtime.
"Sometimes, you just got to grind it out," said the defenseman, signed on the Fourth of July. "We've had some nice games lately, but this one we had to grind it out." [Star Tribune]
Minnesota is averaging five goals per game in their last four on the road, and have won five over-all away from Xcel Energy Center.
Dallas escaped the Wild power play Monday night, but in five road games before that the Wild had tallied six goals on the man advantage. The Stars afforded them only two chances on Monday, and similar discipline will be needed here to get the two points.