When the Dallas Stars take on the Minnesota Wild tonight, both teams will have a .500 record and will have earned six points on the early season. The difference is in the records - the Stars sit 3-3-0, and are coming off a less-than-ideal two game road outing in which they lost both contests. The Wild, on the other hand, have found a way to lose better, gaining a 2-2-2 record.
Neither is exactly the start the clubs envisioned. In a division where every point can mean the difference between going to the playoffs or hitting the golf course early, they say you can’t win the division in the beginning of the season, but you can lose it.
Wild coach Bruce Boudreau told The Athletic that the team known for mediocre starts is hoping to get going sooner than they did last year. “We didn’t start going until probably beginning of December, so hopefully we’ll start getting into a run sooner that that, but we’ll continue to persevere.” On the other bench, Jim Montgomery indicated to Dallas Morning News that he would have hoped for a 4-2 mark at this point of the season.
Luckily, both coaches have a chance to take a step towards their team getting above the .500 mark tonight in a big divisional matchup. It may be early yet to talk about must-wins, but games where points are lost to divisional mates are circled near the end of the season as critical points where wins would have come in handy down the stretch.
Based on morning skate, Connor Carrick will get his first healthy scratch as a Dallas Star. The young blueliner has recorded one goal and three assists in the first six games of the season. It’s an interesting move to scratch him, but you have to assume that the coaching staff is looking to evaluate Julius Honka by giving him a start or two at home.
Alexander Radulov is dealing with some “soreness” in the lower-body and is a game-time decision for tonight. With him out, Roope Hintz gets a chance to ride shotgun on the top line in the right wing spot.
Lines from morning skate included Radulove, so it’ll take some educated guessing as to how Jim Montgomery might assemble his forward lines tonight. Based on morning skate combinations and observations from their last six games, my best guess is that the lineup will look something like this to open the game:
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Roope Hintz
Devin Shore – Jason Spezza – Tyler Pitlick
Mattias Janmark – Radek Faksa – Blake Comeau
Gemel Smith – Jason Dickinson – Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell – John Klingberg
Marc Methot – Miro Heiskanen
Roman Polak – Julius Honka
Ben Bishop starts tonight.
With Matt Hendricks out two to three weeks with a lower-body injury and Joel Eriksson Ek retroactively placed on IR as he also deals with a lower-body injury (those are popular in Minneapolis, it seems), the Wild recalled 32-year old Matt Read from Iowa this Thursday and redid some of their lines as well. The expected lineup for tonight is as follows:
Jason Zucker – Eric Staal – Matt Read
Zach Parise – Mikko Koivu – Mikael Granlund
Nino Niederreiter – Charlie Coyle – Jordan Greenway
Nate Prosser – Eric Fehr – J.T. Brown
Ryan Suter – Matt Dumba
Jonas Brodin – Jared Spurgeon
Nick Seeler – Greg Pateryn
Devan Dubnyk is the likely starter with Minnesota on the first half of a back-to-back. They’ll host the Tampa Bay Lightning tomorrow at home. With points against the Central Division at a higher premium than those against any other division, it would make sense to roll with the starter in tonight’s matchup.
How To Watch
Tonight’s game is on NBCSN, the only time Dallas is on national television this year. As always, you can find the broadcast locally on The Ticket (1310 AM / 96.7 FM / theticket.com).