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Dallas Stars v Minnesota Wild: Q&A with Hockey Wilderness

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The Stars return to Dallas on a winning streak (that's right, two games a winning streak doth make), and face a Minnesota Wild team that just ended a four-game skid with a win against the Buffalo Sabres. So are the Wild bad right now? Or good? We ask Tony Abbott of Hockey Wilderness to fill us in.

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This afternoon marks the first of four meetings between the Dallas Stars and the Minnesota Wild.

*David sticks his fingers in his ears as people try to argue the preceding statement*

Yep, that's right, a fresh slate. No embarrassing road loss to the Wild in the midst of a seven-game losing streak. Nope. I certainly don't remember anything like that happening. And besides, we didn't do a Q&A for that non-existent game, so it's like it never happened.

So here we are, poised for a titanic clash between the Dallas Stars and that other Central Division team that I quite often forget exists. Being a good sport, Tony Abbott, managing editor at Hockey Wilderness, was willing to answer a barrage of very appropriate and oh so serious questions posed to him by Obscene Alex and yours truly. For example, did you know that Marco Scandella and Jonas Brodin both hang out in hot tubs with Corey Perry? Gross.

Our questions, his answers:

1) First off, the burning question on every Stars' fan's mind. Does 'Wild' actually operate as a collective noun? The Wild is? Or the Wild are? Or maybe it's easier to ask it this way: A player for the Dallas Stars is known as a Star, while a player for, say, the Pittsburgh Penguins is known as a Penguin, despite the biological unlikelihood of either of those things being true. Now, having said that, please fill in the following blank: Matt Cooke is a ____. Actually, this could be a fun game for our readers too. Feel free to include your answers in the comments. The best ones will be deleted by Brandon.

I'll be a gentleman and leave the slam dunking to your commenters, RE: Matt Cooke, but you would call most players "a Wild".

2) Tell me, how is it watching hockey games where both teams end up with double-digit shots on goal totals? Are you enjoying the added excitement of goals actually being scored in Wild games, or were you so used to boring Minnesota hockey that this is too much to handle?

Like Westley with Iocane Powder, years of watching Minnesota Wild hockey has built my tolerance of boring hockey to levels where I can barely notice when boring hockey is played (though the MIN-NJ game last week was too much for me).

But yeah, this Wild team has been objectively fun to watch. It's fast, they can actually shoot this year (a first for Wild teams), they've got players like Nino Niederreiter who are insanely fun to watch, and the Parise/Suter thing makes rooting for them like rooting for a cartoon villain. It's awesome.

3) When something good or unexpected happens, do Minnesota fans describe the happening as 'pretty wild?'

Nope, there's usually just profanity, and blaming whichever player or coach or referee you like least. My favorite scapegoat is Nate Prosser, regardless of whether he's in the lineup or not. But the popular guy to rip is Thomas Vanek, because there's a good amount of Wild fans who hate players who score points for... reasons?

4) Goalie controversy was one of the big talking points over the summer for your guys, and then Josh Harding's temper tantrum removed him from consideration. Best thing that could have happened for the Wild? Will Darcy Kuemper be able to maintain his form for the entirety of a season?

I'm never going to root against a guy with MS, but yeah, Harding's injury really cleared up the picture for the Wild. Harding is nearing a return, though, so the Wild are going to have to deal with having 3 goalies on one-way deals soon. How they deal with that, I've no idea.

As for Kuemper, he has a .908 save percentage this season (after sporting a .980 through the first four games), so I really hope he's not going to keep up this play. [Ed. note: Is his save average that low now? I guess I kind of forgot the Wild existed after the first few games of the season...] But I'm pretty certain he'll rebound, as he had some bad streaks last season, then recovered from them. The .915 save percentage he had last season seems a pretty good bet as to where he'll end up at.

5) Why is your power play awful?

I don't even know. They generate shots, and just haven't been able to cash them in, so I'm guessing/hoping most of it is a matter of just being in a bad streak. But hey, they scored 2 in Buffalo Thursday [Ed. note: Doesn't count.], and are just 0.3% away from being 28th in the NHL in Power Play%, so things are looking up!

6) Who is this Jason Zucker guy on your top line after Mike Yeo's recent line shuffle and is he any good?

Jason Zucker was the 59th pick in the 2010 NHL draft. When he was selected, he was viewed as a third-line-type energy winger with scoring upside. Like Cal Clutterbuck, with more points and fewer fake hits. But then he scored 45 goals in 78 games for the University of Denver, making people re-evaluate his upside.

He spent most of last season in Yeo's doghouse, but that's certainly seemed to change. Up until Niederreider's hat trick on Thursday, he led the team in goals, and has been used in Penalty Killing situations. He's going to be useful depth scoring, and if you're only seeing him for the first time, look for his elite speed and propensity to shoot.

7) Tell us the story of how Mike Yeo went from school teacher to head coach.

Did you know that Jon Hamm was a high school teacher before doing Mad Men? No disrespect to Yeo, but I'd love it if Jon Hamm were the Wild's head coach. Fills out a suit well, oozes masculine confidence, and is a pretty good quote. Chuck Fletcher needs to get on this.

8) At the time of me writing this question the Wild have lost their last four games. But at the time of you answering it, seeing as the Wild play Buffalo tonight, that losing streak will have been snapped. We Stars' fans know an early season losing streak can be panic inducing. What was the sentiment surrounding the team during that four game streak?

Show me a Minnesota fan who has confidence that their team will succeed, and I'll show you an 8-year-old. So, everyone was on edge, and some people said some hilarious things about how their second-leading scorer (Vanek) was a major problem, but other than that, nothing notable.

9) Zach Parise is currently out with a concussion. How has that factored in to Minnesota's performance over this losing streak?

Yes. Like I said last time I was here, last year's Wild team was pretty good when Parise, Koivu, and Spurgeon were all healthy, and not very good when they were not.

They're deeper this year, but you're not going to replace someone with Parise's all-around game easily, and Spurgeon having been out meant that they'd have to give more ice time to a less-than-ideal defender. I'd say it was a big factor.

10) Beating Buffalo at home doesn't count. Can the Wild turn the streak around against Dallas?

Well, remember what I said about how Spurgeon being out of the lineup means they had to give more ice time to lesser defensemen?

With Marco Scandella and Jonas Brodin both out to mumps, expect that, and more. Seriously, get ready for 18 minutes of Keith Ballard. So, I'm not all that optimistic. On the other hand, Mathew Dumba has 2 goals in 2 games against the Stars, so there may yet be hope.

11) Were there any Wild players at Corey Perry's hot tub mumps party?

I hope not. I don't care who you are, or how open-minded you may be. Even casual socialization with Corey Perry is just plain unnatural, and an abomination unto the Lord. [Ed. note: Amen.] Then you want to suggest that someone would actually be in the same hot tub as Perry? Gross.