After playing in the first NHL game of the 2010-11 regular season in October, the Wild will close out the NHL calendar when it hosts the Stars Sunday evening. In addition to trying to end its season on a high note and send the crowd home happy, the Wild might have some extra motivation to play the role of spoilers against Dallas.
If Chicago loses in regulation against Detroit this afternoon, the final playoff spot comes down to tonight's game in St. Paul. Minnesota can eliminate Dallas, which currently sits in the No. 9 spot. Wild Fans might like to see the former North Stars franchise eliminated from postseason play, but the players in the Wild locker room will be focused on some sense of retribution after losing six straight to Dallas (0-4-2).
Dallas comes to St. Paul having won four straight after a 3-2 victory in Colorado Friday. Mike Ribeiro, Loui Eriksson and Brenden Morrow all scored for the Stars, while Kari Lehtonen made 15 saves to earn the win in his career-high 69th appearance.
Tonight's contest will be your last chance to get your fill of Wild hockey until early next fall. You'll want to stock up on hockey action for the long, hot summer months ahead. Click here to get in the door.
Wild vs. Stars will be broadcast locally in high definition on FOX Sports North 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 final game of this season's Wild Fan Celebration, all fans through the doors of Xcel Energy Center will receive a Year Ten poster. The awesome-looking poster will feature action shots of all the Wild players from the 2010-11 season.
It's been an ultra-tight race in the Western Conference playoff race and it comes down to tonight for Dallas. The West is so competitive, in fact, that despite winning four straight games, the Stars remain on the outside looking in from the No. 9 spot. Dallas is holding on to a small glimmer of hope that they can make it to the dance tonight. If the Chicago Blackhawks lose at home in regulation against the Detroit Red Wings this afternoon, the Stars can take over the No. 8 spot in the West with a win against the Wild.
Ribeiro and Morrow are leading the late-season charge for Dallas. Ribeiro has tallied five points (3-2=5) during the four-game win streak, while the Stars Captain has scored in all four contests.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard continues to make his case to take home the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy this summer. The nominee for the award presented to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey continues to shine after his return from a concussion in December. Bouchard tied a career high with three assists and skated in a season-high 20:12 TOI in the Wild's win Friday.
Tonight's game is a chance for Minnesota to end the year on a positive note after so much late-season disappointment. But really, it's even more about the opportunity to ruin Dallas' playoff plans. Minnesota has not only struggled against the Stars, but many of the contests between the two teams have been physical and chippy. If there's a list of teams Minnesota doesn't like, Dallas must be on it. The chance to send the Stars home without playoff action would be a sweet end to the season for the Wild.
Ten different Wild players have recorded double-digit goals this season, one off of the franchise record of 11 players in the 2008-09 season, and Chuck Kobasew is just one tally away from the plateau.
Todd Richards moved Pierre-Marc Bouchard to the top line during Friday's game and is likely to keep things the same after a successful contest:
“We want to play well at home. We don't know what this game is going to mean to them, but it's got to mean something to us. Playing at home and finishing it the way we would like to finish is important to us.”
-- Todd Richards on trying to end the season on a high note with a victory.
D Alex Goligoski (Grand Rapids), RW Jamie Langenbrunner (Cloquet) and C Toby Peterson (Minneapolis) are Minnesota natives.
The Wild has recorded points in seven of its nine regular season-ending games all-time (4-2-3).