It's the tale of two teams: one has fallen so hard it can't seem to find any bounces, while the other keeps climbing the standings with ease. Unfortunately for Wild fans, Minnesota is the former.
The Wild has struggled since mid- November, earning a 1-5-1 record in its last seven contests, while the Dallas Stars are red hot, winning five straight and going 7-1-1 in the last nine games. The Wild will not only try to reverse the fortunes of the two teams, it will do so in a building that has historically given the team nightmares.
There have been positive signs that Minnesota is starting to right the ship, inlcuding last night's 3-2 shootout loss to the Calgary Flames in St. Paul. Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored his first goal since March 10, 2009 and Martin Havlat continued to lead the Wild with a goal and an assist. Niklas Backstrom made 30 saves in a solid performance in net.
The Stars earned their fifth straight win with a 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals Thursday in Dallas. Mike Ribeiro and Brandon Segal scored for the Stars, while Andrew Raycroft made 37 saves to earn the win.
Wild at Stars will be broadcast locally in high definition on KSTC-TV Channel 45 at 7:00 PM. The game can be heard on BOB/KBGY FM, or online at Wild.com.
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Hungry for Hockey? Then you can enjoy the All You Can Eat seats tonight at American Airlines Center. For just $35 you can not only get a great seats to watch the Wild face the Stars, but you'll also get unlimited hot dogs, soda, nachos, water, peanuts and popcorn.
Losing Mike Modano as the long time face of the franchise apparently did nothing to slow down the Stars. They've exceeded expectations early in the season and are currently tied with Vancouver for second place in the Western Conference with 31 points.
After a 4-1 loss in Toronto on Nov. 22, the Stars have rattled off five straight regulation wins. In that five-game span they've outscored opponents, 13-6, and have stopped 11 of the 12 opposition power plays.
C Brad Richards leads Dallas with 11 goals, 29 points and 89 shots on the season. LW Loui Eriksson has also had a strong season, totaling 25 points (10-15=25). G Kari Lehtonen is 12-7-1 on the season with a 2.61 GAA and .914 SV%, while Raycroft is 3-1-0 with a 1.65 GAA and a .951 SV%.
Martin Havlat continues to pound a "reserved" sign in this spot, and until he slows down, we're not changing it. Marty registered an assist on Bouchard's marker last night before putting on a jaw-dropping show to tie the game in the third.
Havlat now has 16 points (5-11=16) in the last 11 games, including five multi-point contests. Sidney Crosby (22) is the only NHL player to have more points in that span.
Every time the Wild skates into American Airlines Center, it is trying to exercise its demons in Dallas. The Wild is 0-9-3 in its last 12 games in Dallas. The 12-game winless streak is Minnesota's longest in another building and fifth current road winless streak against one team, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Minnesota is 3-11-4 all-time in Dallas, with its last win coming by a 3-2 OT decision March 21, 2003. Its last regulation win was a 5-3 game on March 8, 2002.
Minnesota hasn’t been able to have a lead at AAC in its last six games there. The Wild last led in Dallas nearly four years ago, when it took a 2-0 first period lead before falling 4-2 on Feb. 6, 2007.
At the beginning of the season, it seemed like nothing could sway the Wild power play. Things were going so well that the Wild still ranks seventh in the NHL with the man advantage (22.3%), despite going 1-for-26 on the power play (3.8%) over the last nine games.
Now, Minnesota can't seem to buy a power play goal. But with Bouchard and Havlat playing so well, they could very well turn the fate of the Wild power play around, and that might just be the difference in tonight's game.
Todd Richards has said that right wing Chuck Kobasew is very close to returning from a lower-body injury, but there's no indication that he is expected to return to the lineup in Dallas.