After an impressive performance on the East Coast where Minnesota topped some of the best teams in the NHL, the Wild is in playoff position for the first time since mid November. The Wild now returns to St. Paul to start the second half of the season looking to continue it's win streak in front of the home crowd. The Wild is red hot, winning a season-high four straight games, including an impressive 3-0-0 trip out East. Minnesota's been awesome on the road this season and looks to bring that mojo to the State of Hockey tonight.
The Stars lost a 3-2 shootout decision against the New York Rangers Friday in Dallas. The Stars held a 2-1 lead going into the third period off goals from Brian Sutherby and Mike Ribeiro, but allowed the Rangers to get the comeback win. Kari Lehtonen made 29 saves in the loss.
The Wild is one of the hottest teams in the NHL and is playing absolutely great hockey right now. Combine this with the fact that the Wild only has two more home games for the rest of January after tonight, and you see why you'll want to be at tonight's game. Click here to get your ticket.
Wild vs. Stars will be broadcast locally in high definition on KSTC-TV at 5:00 PM. The game can be heard on WCCO 830 AM, or online at Wild.com.
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As part of the Wild's ongoing Year Ten celebration, the first 3,500 fans through the Xcel Energy Center gates will receive the latest in the Wild's Top Ten Moments Puck Series. Tonight's puck will feature the fan-voted No. 9 moment in Wild history: the Wild clinching its first-ever Northwest Division title on April 3, 2008.
The Stars have been one of the most surprising teams in the NHL this season. Sure, you might have picked them to make the playoffs at the beginning of the season, but you wouldn't find many people saying they'd be fighting for the top record in the Western Conference. There are many reasons for Dallas' success, but one of the top explanations is the play of C Brad Richards and LW Loui Eriksson. The duo ranks second in the Western Conference with a combined 92 points (34-58=92).
Minnesota native C Toby Petersen was recently placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury, but Dallas picked up former Star RW Jamie Langenbrunner in a trade with the Devils to help fill the void. Additionally, the Stars haven't slowed their furious pace on the road this season, currently sporting a six-game road win streak, the team's longest since 2007-08.
Jose Theodore earned his 30th career shutout last night against the Penguins and, after starting (and winning) four straight games for the Wild, might earn a night off tonight. However, that doesn't mean Jose won't get his proper kudos as the featured 'hot' player in this preview. Regardless of tonight's game, Theo should be named the NHL's No. 1 Star of the Week after posting a 3-0-0 record with a .067 GAA, a .976 SV% and one shutout against some of the top teams in the League over the past week.
After defeating division leaders in its past two games, the Wild comes home to St. Paul with the opportunity to make it three straight tonight against the Pacific Division-leading Dallas Stars. The Wild has been a completely different team on the road this season, winning where it couldn't find any luck last year. Minnesota looks to convert some of the mojo from its latest road trip into solid play in front of the home crowd tonight before it departs Monday for yet another road game.
Mikko Koivu has five points (3-2=5) in his last four games in St. Paul and seven points (4-3=7) in his last seven home games against the Stars.
Clutterbuck was banged up after last night's win and Antti Miettinen remains questionable with a lower-body injury, so some integral parts of the Wild lineup will be true gametime decisions tonight:
Richards is expectd to keep the same blueline pairings he used yesterday in Pittsburgh:
After four straight games in net for Minnesota, Theodore might get the night off. If he does, Anton Khudobin will get his first start with the Wild this season. Along with any other lineup changes, the starting goalie is expected to be a gametime decision.
If the lineup stays the same, Jared Spurgeon will remain the lone healthy scratch.