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Game Preview: Minnesota Wild vs. Dallas Stars 1/14/2017 @ 7:00PM CST at American Airlines Arena

Minnesota Wild (26-9-5)  57pts  2nd in the Central

3.23 Goals For Per Game (4th in the NHL)

2.10 Goals Against Per Game (2nd in the NHL)

20.2% Power Play (13th in the NHL)

85.1% Penalty Kill (5th in the NHL)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #12 Eric Staal ~ 14G 24A = 38pts

2. #3 Charlie Coyle ~ 13G 20A = 33pts

3. #64 Mikael Granlund ~ 10G 22A = 32pts

4. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 12G 17A = 29pts

5. #22 Nino Niederreiter ~ 11G 15A = 26pts

Top 3 PIM’s:

1. #7 Chris Stewart ~ 51 PIM’s

2. #24 Mathew Dumba ~ 39 PIM’s

3. #63 Kurtis Gabriel ~ 24 PIM’s

Top Goaltenders:

1. #40 Devan Dubnyk (22-7-3)  1.77GAA  .940%SP  5SO

2. #35 Darcy Kuemper (4-2-2)  3.21GAA  .902%SP

 

 

Vs.

 

 

Dallas Stars (18-17-8)  44pts  5th in the Central

2.65 Goals For Per Game (18th in the NHL)

3.00 Goals Against Per Game (25th in the NHL)

16.7% Power Play (22nd in the NHL)

74.5% Penalty Kill (29th in the NHL)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #91 Tyler Seguin ~ 15G 26A = 41pts

2. #14 Jamie Benn ~ 10G 24A = 34pts

3. #90 Jason Spezza ~ 7G 19A = 26pts

4. #18 Patrick Eaves ~ 15G 9A = 24pts

5. #3 John Klingberg ~ 6G 17A = 23pts

Top 3 PIM’s:

1. #21 Antoine Roussel ~ 87 PIM’s

2. #11 Curtis McKenzie ~ 42 PIM’s

3. #14 Jamie Benn ~ 35 PIM’s

Top Goaltenders:

1. #31 Antti Niemi (9-7-4)  2.84GAA  .912%SP

2. #32 Kari Lehtonen (9-10-4)  2.90GAA  .897%SP  1SO

Lines:

Dallas Stars

Hudler~Spezza~Seguin

Ja. Benn~Eakin~Eaves

Roussel~Faksa~Sharp

Korpikoski~Shore~Ritchie

Lindell~Klingberg

Hamhuis~Oleksiak

Oduya~Jo. Benn

Lehtonen

Niemi

Minnesota Wild

Parise~Staal~Coyle

Zucker~Koivu~Granlund

Niederreiter~Haula~Pominville

Stewart~Graovac~Schroeder

Suter~Spurgeon

Brodin~Folin

Scandella~Dumba

Dubnyk

Kuemper

Another weekend, another back-to-back situation for the Minnesota Wild in the month of January which seems to be chalk full of these.  Tonight’s game also marks the end of the 1st half of the Wild’s 2016-17 season.  Minnesota has done a good job of making the most of their opportunities and now have two tough Central division road tests in a Sunday game against Chicago and tonight against Dallas.

Dallas has not had the season many expected of a club that seemed to be deep in young talent and with a promising playoff run last year that resulted in the Wild being bounced in 6 games by this same Stars squad.  With young superstars in Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn (who has recently returned after being hurt) the Stars are tough to match up against defensively.  One player who has been a bit of a Wild killer the last few years has been Patrick Eaves, the son of current St. Olaf Men’s Hockey Head Coach and former North Stars winger Mike Eaves.  So why the regression?

Defensive and very mundane goaltending has been a huge reason for it.   John Klingberg who looked like a budding Norris trophy contender has been prone to gaffes with the puck in his own end and the team has missed veterans Jason Demers and Alex Goligoski whom they parted ways with last summer.  Esa Lindell and giant Jamie Oleksiak have been ok but they’ve left Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi out to dry far too often.  Special teams have also been a sore spot for the Stars this season.  I would expect Niemi to get the start against the Wild as he had a good start in Dallas’ 5-2 win over Detroit on Thursday.

Minnesota had a pretty showing of its own in the Wild’s 7-1 thrashing of the Montreal Canadiens.  It started off sluggish, but then the team really put the boots to the Canadiens and star goaltender Carey Price with 6 goals in the 2nd and 3rd period.  The Wild find itself just 2 points behind Central Division-leading Chicago but with 4 games in hand.  Part of the Wild success has been attack by committee approach they’ve used to overwhelm opponents as Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Mikko Koivu, Nino Niederreiter and Jason Zucker all have at least 10 goals which makes Minnesota tough to shut down.

The other impressive recovery has been the team’s performance defensively in their last few games.  I would be surprised if Darcy Kuemper didn’t get the start with a game against Chicago on Sunday looming.  Kuemper needs to prove he can provide quality starts on back to backs.  His last start against the Kings was ok, but he still gave up a few soft-ish goals in the overtime loss.

Defensively the Wild have played better in front of their goaltender since Head Coach Bruce Boudreau adjusted his 2nd and 3rd defensive pairings.  He put Jonas Brodin and Christian Folin together and got much improved play with the Marco Scandella and Mathew Dumba combination.  They will get a good test against the Stars’ collection fast and skilled forwards.  So what are the keys to beating Dallas tonight?

  1. Working the puck deep ~ its cliche, but the Wild are at their best when the work pucks deep and apply pressure to Dallas’ suspect defensive corps.  The Wild must force the Stars to defend in their own zone as this is where they are at their worst.
  2. Shut down the Stars Big 2 ~ Another reason Dallas has struggle this season is they have had a hard time finding secondary scoring.  That means taking more effort to shut down Seguin and Benn and you likely shut down the Stars offensively.
  3. Don’t be picky ~ No matter who starts tonight, the Wild cannot help out Dallas defensively by being overly selective in their shots on goal.  Lehtonen and Niemi have both been leaky so the Wild should feel free to pull the trigger.  Minnesota got some fortunate bounces against Montreal, but they put up 7 by taking the chances the Habs gave them and the Wild should do the same against Dallas.

I finish this article with a small announcement.  We are changing the name of our blog from State of Hockey News to Crease and Assist: A legally compliant Minnesota Hockey Blog.  That also means I’ve changed my Twitter handle to reflect the change so if you please follow me at @CreaseandAssist!