Gameday Preview: Dallas Stars @ Minnesota Wild (7:00pm CDT)
A tough test awaits on back-to-back nights against the best possession team in hockey.
The Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars both claim 12 points in the Western Conference and a share of 8th place, but have taken quite different paths in getting there.
One team is a perfect 4-0-0 at home (the only team in the conference without a regulation home loss). The other dropped their fourth home game in five tries last night. One team has a -2 goal differential. The other is a league-leading +14.
More notably, one team leads the league, giving up just 23.2 shots per game. The other is one of the worst at 31.3. One is second in the league, giving up 1.89 goals per game.
The other is Dallas, as you well know by now.
12 points versus 12 points- But 12 very, very different points for Minnesota, who looks absolutely beastly right now. That's what Dallas must attempt to penetrate on the second night of a back-to-back with lengthy travel all the way up north.
The Stars have struggled with teams trying to slow things down and dictate style- Nashville, St. Louis and Anaheim all did it quite effectively. That's how teams combat Dallas' speed, and they've not yet demonstrated an answer for it. With nine shots through two periods last night they were completely stymied by the Ducks' willingness to muck things up.
"I just don't think we were playing the right way," Jamie Benn remarked after the game. "They were playing in back to back games, they play a pretty simple game in the neutral zone and we just couldn't find a way and we weren't playing smart enough to figure it out to just chip the puck in and go to work and we didn't really skate well tonight either."
They'll find more of the same waiting for them tonight in Minnesota, though the good news is they've given up a little more as of late. After going their first six games allowing 0, 0, 2, 2, 0, and 2 (seriously?) they've allowed 5, 3 and 3 to show that they are, perhaps, human.
On the other side of the ledger they've been deadly, scoring 18 goals in their last four, including seven against a very impressive Tampa Bay Lightning squad.
Their four home wins have come against San Jose, Tampa Bay, Arizona and Colorado. Curiously they have not scored a power play goal this season, owning the league's only 0.0%.
Or is it that much more impressive that they already have six wins and a +14 goal differential without so much as a single tally from their power play unit?
From the Star Tribune:
Wild G Darcy Kuemper (5-2) is expected to start. He won his third career shootout game Thursday and is 15-3-2 all-time at home with a 1.69 goals-against average and .933 save percentage.
Injuries: Wild D Jared Spurgeon (shoulder) and LW Matt Cooke (lower body) are out. C Erik Haula (head) and D Jonas Brodin (hand) may return. D Christian Folin (sick) is probable. D Keith Ballard (sick) is out. [Star Tribune]
Bottom line on this one- Expect the Wild to absolutely own the puck. They have a 59% Fenwick number this year, which is far and away the best in the league thanks to allowing the least shots in the league, while taking the second most (35.6). They may be 8th in the Western Conference but those numbers indicate that they're on the rise faster than any team in hockey.
And oh yeah, they have Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
Catch the action on Fox Sports Southwest PLUS this evening, and drop in for live discussion in our gameday thread.