After three consecutive wins on home ice the Dallas Stars hope they're starting to turn their season in a positive direction, and they need to get a little greedy on Black Friday given the opportunities before them.
A win would even their home record 5-5-4...Still nine losses versus five would-be wins, but .500 points percentage in the league's reckoning would be a good mental hurdle to clear. A win would put their overall record at 10-9-4, one game over .500 since November 1st- And most importantly at all, would tie them with these Minnesota Wild at 24 points.
Those Wild have been a tough nut to crack. The Stars have managed just a single goal in each of their first two contests against Mike Yeo's club, losing each (4-1, 2-1).
Or about this hurdle they could get over tonight? They're still winless against their Central Division rivals in seven attempts. The Central. Winnipeg. Minnesota. Nashville- The teams they hope to catch if they're squeeze into the playoffs.
The Wild? 5-0-0 against the Central.
And those Colorado Avalanche, nipping at their heels just one point back, loom tomorrow on a back-to-back.
It's a very big game for a variety of reasons- And they'd like to punctuate this five-game home stand with a win to validate their turnaround.
They'll be without Ryan Garbutt in their attempt. The forward was suspended on Thanksgiving afternoon for two games following his illegal trip of Taylor Hall in Tuesday's 3-2 win. As such, the Stars ran these lines at practice Thursday:
So it appears that Colton Sceviour could get a look with Eakin and Roussel in Garbutt's absence, while Patrick Eaves continues to fill in on the top-line with the "super line" broken up for the time being- Though it's always a threat to make an appearance.
Kari Lehtonen did not practice Wednesday but was back on Thursday. With the back-to-back set it's a bit of a mystery on who will suit up tonight and who will go tomorrow in Denver. Ruff hadn't tipped his hand so we'll check back on that after morning skate.
When last these teams met the Stars bested the Wild in the shot category 28-22 but were stymied by a strong effort from Darcy Kuemper that Saturday afternoon. Kuemper was not so clean Wednesday night as the Wild went down 4-0 to the Kings before he was pulled in favor of Backstrom, and his coach mused after the game about wishing he'd pulled him earlier.
"I thought about [pulling him],'' Mike Yeo told media. "I regret not doing that now. Even the third goal, I thought, 'Well, there's a minute-thirty (left), let's give (Backstrom) a chance to have a bit of a stretch between periods.' I thought we could get through that." [Star Tribune]
That being said, Kuemper's 1.00 GAA, 2-0-0 record and .958 save percentage against the Stars should be enough to consider keeping him in tonight. Playing behind a team that always has the puck has been kind to backup Backstrom as well, with a 2.04 GAA and a .914 save percentage in seven appearances this year.
Niederreiter is second on the team in points and is on their third line- They bring a balanced attack, and a little even-strength production out of Spezza and Hemsky would go a log way tonight to a huge two points.
Other than all that, it's the same Wild we know this season. They give up the fewest shots in the league. They give up the sixth fewest goals in the league. They have Zach Parise back from injury, and he has seven points in his last nine games.
7:30pm CST start time as usual tonight, but note that the game's scheduled to be on Fox Sports Southwest PLUS. Make a turkey sandwich and join us here for the game day thread tonight as we chat live.