The Stars had lost four of five before the Red Wings, also losers of four of five, showed up and took a 4-2 defeat Thursday night despite out-shooting Dallas 33-21. Now once again, the Stars have the chance to get a little something going with a second win in a row- This one is harder than most, however.
The Minnesota Wild arrive 8-1-1 in their last 10 games and vying for the Western Conference's top spot just two points off Chicago's pace- So while the Stars fight to get within spitting distance of a Wild Card spot, Devan Dubnyk and crew fight for the whole ball of wax.
While the Stars were taking first period penalties against the Wings Thursday night the Wild were mounting a massive seven-goal throttling of the Atlantic Division leading Montreal Canadiens and Carey Price.
Seven goals on 24 shots- Two on the power play, where the Wild have been effective. 10 power play goals in their last 12 games overall to just four against in the span. Their special teams are solid and a contrast, to say the least, to the Stars'.
A power play goal or two would go a long way against the Minnesota Wild, who can keep things "low event" when it suits them.
"We have to treat it basically like an LA, a low-chance, heavy game," Lindy Ruff told media Friday. "It's going to be a tough game inside the offensive zone to get quality opportunities. But we're going to have to find a way to get inside. The goaltender's been really good for them. It's going to be tough to get the Grade-A, but we're going to have to fight for the second opportunities."
Minnesota is a formidable defensive team, to Ruff's points. Second in the league to only the Capitals with an absurdly low 2.10 goals against per games played. But on the other side of the coin they've been nearly just as effective- 4th in the league with a 3.23 GF/GP.
All that, as you know, fueled them to a 12-game winning streak that could only be stopped by the absurdity of the Columbus Blue Jackets' win streak on New Year's Eve.
The Stars held an optional skate Friday so there's nothing in the way of substantive updates from practice other than to say that Jamie Oleksiak will be out for some period of time nebulously defined as three to six weeks.
Optional practices could be the norm for a while. The Stars play tonight, travel Sunday, play Monday and Tuesday again, finish a road swing in Brooklyn on Thursday, travel back to Dallas and play at home on Saturday. As in that brutal November stretch, they'll have to try to improve things without much in the way of instruction.
The Wild lineup-
- Devan Dubnyk
- Darcy Kuemper
From Stars PR:
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE
The Minnesota Wild travel to Dallas to take on the Stars on Saturday night at American Airlines Center. The game marks the third of five contests this season between the Central Division rivals, with both clubs having recorded a win on home ice (1-1-0). Dallas has registered an overtime win in two of the last three games at home against Minnesota (2-1-0) and recorded a 3-2 overtime victory in the most recent meeting of the season series on Nov. 21. Captain Jamie Benn potted the game-winning goal in overtime (1-0=1), with forward Brett Ritchie (1-0=1) and defenseman Jamie Oleksiak (1-0=1) each adding goals for the Stars. Goaltender Antti Niemi stopped 27-of-29 shots faced and now has recorded points in eight of his last 10 games against the Wild (7-2-1). Jamie Benn leads all Stars skaters with 25 career points (11-14=25) in 28 games against Minnesota.
HE'S A SPEZZ-CIAL PLAYER
Forward Jason Spezza recorded an assist (0-1=1) on Thursday night against the Red Wings and has points in four of his last five games (0-4=4) and 11 points (2-9=11) over his last 10 games. The forward is riding a two-game assist streak on home ice (0-2=2) and has inked the scoresheet in five of his last six contests (1-6=7) at American Airlines Center. Spezza ranks third on the team with 26 points (7-19=26), 17 of which (3-14=17) have come over his last 19 games. He ranks first on the club with a 53.1% (217-of-409) faceoff winning percentage. On home ice this season, ranks third on the club with 17 points (4-13=17) in 21 games. The native of Toronto, Ont. has points in three of his last four meetings against the Wild (0-3=3) along with points in three consecutive games (1-2=3) against them at American Airlines Center. Over his NHL career, the forward has nine points (3-6=9) in 18 contests.