Erik Christensen will make his Minnesota Wild debut tonight, one day after arriving in Dallas to join his new team. Christensen was acquired from the New York Rangers along with a conditional seventh round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft in exchange for Casey Wellman. Christensen took the ice with his teammates for the first time today, and will start out as the center between Darroll Powe and Carson McMillan.
Christensen comes in at a time when the Wild is starting to play its best hockey since early December. Minnesota won its third game out of the last four on Thursday with a 1-0 shutout win over the Colorado Avalanche. Greg Zanon bagged the only goal of the game in the first period, and Niklas Backstrom made that lead hold up with 37 stops.
The Stars are coming off a 5-2 thumping at the hands of the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. Steve Ott and Jamie Benn accounted for Dallas’ goals, while Richard Bachmann took the loss in goal, making 32 saves on 37 shots.
Wild at Stars will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North with a start time at 7:00 PM. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com.
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There will be a special pregame ceremony starting at 6:45 tonight to honor former Stars goaltender, Ed Belfour. The Stars goalkeeper helped Dallas win its first-ever Stanley Cup in 1999, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame this past November.
The Stars are threatening the Wild’s hold on the eighth spot in the Western Conference in large part because of their defensemen, who are active in the offensive zone. The Stars are 15-3-0 when a defensemen scores a goal, and a bulk of those tallies have come from Grand Rapids native Alex Goligoski, who just signed a four-year contract extension to remain in Dallas through 2015-16. Since joining the NHL in 2007-08, Goligoski has racked up 34 goals and 89 assists.
Something is definitely clicking with Kyle Brodziak centering Dany Heatley. Heatley has been on a tear lately, and Brodziak has been right there with him. The versatile center has put up two goals and four assists over his current five-game point streak.
We got all the way down here before bringing it up, but we certainly can’t avoid it entirely. The Wild hasn’t won in Dallas in its last 14 games played, going 0-10-4 since 2003.
But what a time for the Wild to end that skid. A win would push Minnesota five points ahead of the Stars, and give the team a huge boost of confidence going forward.
Christensen will not have had the chance to go through a full practice with his new team, but he’s going to be relied upon in key situations. Look for him to see some power play time tonight in addition to his third line duties. And should this game go to a shootout, expect Christensen to get a crack at it. He’s ninth all-time with 24 shootout goals, including 11 shootout-deciding goals, which ranks third all-time in the NHL.
Christensen’s addition won’t be the only change to the front lines as Brad Staubitz gets back in the lineup:
"He was always a good teammate – a guy that was a team first guy. I expect him to come in and fit in the same way here.”
-- Mike Yeo on Christensen, who he coached in Pittsburgh for two seasons as an assistant
Goligoski is from Grand Rapids and played his college hockey at the University of Minnesota…Toby Petersen was a high school standout with the Bloomington Jefferson Jaguars…LW Eric Nystrom spent last season with the Wild, scoring four goals and eight assists while playing all 82 games.
Christensen will be the 38th player to wear a Wild sweater in a game this season. That’s two shy of the franchise record of 40, set in 2009-10.