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Gameday Preview: Minnesota Wild @ Dallas Stars (1:00pm CST)

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The Stars are still looking for their first win against a Central Division opponent as the Wild come to town for an early, early start.

Thomas B. Shea

Kari Lehtonen might have produced the highlight of the season in Los Angeles Thursday night as the Stars won their second in a row, but head coach Lindy Ruff knows his team played one of of their most solid efforts throughout.

"We needed the one real big save from our goaltender," Ruff admitted, "but other than that, I thought we played a pretty clean game defensively where we didn't give up a lot of good opportunities."

The reward was the Stars' first shutout of the season- More than that, the first game of the year in which they allowed fewer than two goals.

Meanwhile, Ales Hemsky will be back in after enduring a healthy scratch.

"Ales is going back in," Ruff told media Friday. "We've had several good meetings and I told him he is going back in. I said I think it would be good to watch a game. Sometimes you can come back a new player, and that is my hope. Let's start over from scratch, and what is behind us is behind us."

In case you're wondering, the Mavericks play at home this evening and it's easier to go from hockey to basketball than the other way around. Make a day of it, why not, and catch some Dirk Nowitzki tonight.

Catch this one on Fox Sports Southwest at about 1:07pm CST.

The Stars:

They've found a little something with two wins in a row, so not fixing what isn't broke should be the order of the day, but there will be some small tweaks.

Travis Moen practiced with the team today but will not make his debut until he participates in a few more sessions. Lines shook out like this, per Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News:

Benn-Spezza-Seguin
Roussel-Eakin-Garbutt
McKenzie-Fiddler-Hemsky
Cole-Horcoff-Moen(Sceviour)

So it seems the "super line" will probably remain intact this afternoon. Ales Hemsky will be reinserted in the lineup as Patrick Eaves comes out, seen in a walking boot after the game Thursday night. So the top-six remains, without Nichushkin, quite like it was last season, and Hemsky's resurgence will have to come with linemates no one quite expected in July.

Kari Lehtonen came off the ice first Friday and is expected to make another start here this afternoon- As for who starts in Chicago tomorrow night, that will be interesting.

Several of you have commented that one of the big reasons to come on out this afternoon is the new toy in the box- One Mr. John Klingberg, who will try to make a big mark on the game for the third straight outing as his poise continues to help the transition game that was in such disarray.

From Stars PR:

Forward Ryan Garbutt scored the game-winning goal for Dallas Thursday night, and has now tallied the game-winner in each of the last two games. Garbutt, who now has four career game-winners, had scored two game-winning goals in his previous 145 career games before Tuesday's contest. The forward is currently tied for first on the Stars and shares sixth in the NHL with two game-winners this season. This also marks the first time Garbutt has scored goals in consecutive games since he posted three goals and four points (3-1=4) in back-to-back games on March 25 and 28 of last season. The Winnipeg, Man. native also matched a career high with eight shots on goal against the Kings, and has now posted 12 of his 28 shots this season over the last three games.

The Wild:

Minnesota hit their high-water mark of the year upon beating the Stars quite soundly in their barn two weeks ago. That capped a streak of having won five of their last six, and put their record at an impressive 7-3-0.

Since then they've seen an absolute four-game nose-dive against exclusively Eastern Conference competition, interrupted only by virtue of having encountered the Buffalo Sabres at home on Thursday night.

Against the Penguins, Senators, Canadiens, and Devils they managed a grand total of three goals while surrendering 14, including an 0-for-13 stretch on their power play that had broken out so successfully for two against the Stars.

For all that bad, they're still the same team that handled the Stars with relative ease. For all their offensive struggles they still lead the league in Fenwick % (possession metric including shots for and shots missed but not blocked shots) at an impressive 58.70%. They still boast one of the league's best GA/G at 2.33 and one of the league's best penalty kills at 87%.

The Wild are 3-0-0 against the Central. The Stars have lost all five against their new division foes this season.

Zach Parise (concussion) reportedly has not traveled to Dallas and will be out. Jonas Brodin may possibly be out with illness. Darcy Kuemper was yanked on Thursday and Niklas Backstrom was excellent in relief. With back-to-back games this afternoon and Saturday the Stars could see either one, as Yeo wouldn't tell media his plan on Friday.

Probable lineup:

Vanek-Granlund-Pominville
Carter-Koivu-Coyle
Niederreiter-Haula-Fontaine
Veilleaux-Brodziak-Zucker

Or this:

Zucker-Koivu-Pominville
Niederreiter-Granlund-Coyle
Vanek-Haula-Schroeder
Carter-Brodziak-Fontaine

Suter- Well, the Minnesota blue line is hard to sort out. Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella might both miss with what could be what ails a couple of Anaheim Ducks- The mumps. They recalled Justin Falk Friday to assist.

The team was offered mumps vaccines Friday, including the coaching staff.