GAMEDAY: Wild at Stars
Minnesota Wild (35-26-7: 77 points, T-10th in Western Conference, 3rd in Northwest Division) at Dallas Stars (36-23-8: 80 points, 7th in Western Conference, 3rd in Pacific Division)
When the final buzzer sounded last night in Nashville, the Minnesota Wild slumped off the ice after a 4-0 defeat, probably feeling like they missed a huge opportunity. When they woke up in a Dallas hotel this morning, they hopefully realized that another huge opportunity awaits tonight. The Wild still remains just two points out of a playoff spot, and tonight will face a team with just a three-point advantage. Both Cal Clutterbuck
and Mikko Koivu
skated this morning but are not expected to return to the lineup tonight, so the Wild will have to battle with the same set of skaters that played last evening.
Last night, the Wild spotted the Nashville Predators a 3-0 advantage in the first period and never recovered in a 4-0 loss. Niklas Backstrom
took the loss in a 27-save effort.
The Stars are coming off a shootout loss in Calgary in which they trailed by three, but eventually came back to tie it on goals by Jamie Benn, Mike Ribeiro and Tomas Vincour. Kari Lehtonen took the loss after stopping 29 shots.
Wild at Stars will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North at 7:30 PM. The game can be heard on WCCO 830 AM or online at Wild.com.
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By attending tonight’s game, you’ll be supporting a tremendous cause besides cheering the Wild on to a playoff berth. It’s Komen for the Cure night and proceeds raised from tonight’s game will go toward the battle against breast cancer.
The Stars have high hopes for second-year winger Jamie Benn, who wasn’t picked until the fifth round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Not many fifth rounders make the jump from junior hockey to the pros without ever playing an AHL game, but Benn is one.
After a 22-goal rookie campaign, Benn is following up with 18 goals through 54 games this season. He’s tallied in each of the last five games and is becoming a significant offensive threat that complements the likes of Brad Richards, Loui Eriksson, Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow.
The players that were hot entering last night’s tilt were cooled off by the suffocating defense of the Predators. But one guy that didn’t see the ice last night was Jose Theodore
, who will get the start in goal for the Wild tonight. Theodore is 4-1-1 in his last six starts. Theodore hasn’t had much success in his career against the Stars, going 3-10-4 against them in 16 starts, but he did help the Wild gain a point in Dallas on December 4 in a 4-3 overtime loss.
The Wild’s losing streak in Dallas, which is up to 13 games, is going to end at some point. It’s important that it ends tonight for two reasons: 1) so the Wild can close to within a point of the Stars, and 2) so we never have to hear about the skid in Texas ever again.
has now played two games since his return from abdominal surgery, and true to the plan, he’s been eased in. He saw 10:21 of ice time on Tuesday and 12:03 last night. Mostly skating on the fourth line, it will be interesting to see if he starts seeing some time with some of the top offensive players, including Martin Havlat
, who he formed a dynamic combination with last season.
Koivu and Clutterbuck are close to returning but are not expected to be in the lineup tonight:
will again fill in for Clayton Stoner
who will miss his third straight game with a lower-body injury:
Theodore, who has come through in clutch situations during the season’s second half, will look for another huge victory tonight.
Koivu, Clutterbuck and Stoner are expected to be watching the action from above.
Clutterbuck (upper body), Koivu (hand), Stoner (lower body), James Sheppard (knee) and Cam Barker
(upper body) are out.
“I don’t know if we’re waiting for (Koivu and Clutterbuck). We need somebody to step forward. I’m not saying go out and score three goals (tonight). But just be a leader.”
-- Todd Richards on the need for more contributors with Koivu and Clutterbuck still out.
It’s State Tournament time, and two of the Stars played in the tourney during their Minnesota high school years. RW Jamie Langenbrunner made it as a member of the Cloquet Lumberjacks and C Toby Petersen won a state championship with Bloomington Jefferson. While he never played in the state tournament, D Alex Goligoski had a stellar career with the Grand Rapids Thunderhawks.
The Wild’s next road win would be the club’s 19th, which would tie a club record for road wins in a season. The two other years were 2006-07 and 2007-08, which were both playoff seasons. Could there be a better location for the Wild to get number 19 than Dallas?