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Wild @ Stars: Game preview, how to watch, start time

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Minnesota heads to Texas to get their first win against the Stars this season.

We've seen far too much of this against Dallas this season.
We've seen far too much of this against Dallas this season.
Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

MINatStars

After losing 3 of their last 4 games, the Minnesota Wild take a brief break from Eastern Conference opponents to face-off against the Dallas Stars. The Stars missed the playoffs last season, but now find themselves on top of the Western Conference by a decent margin. Meanwhile, the Wild are lingering around the first Wild Card spot, not in real danger of missing the playoffs, but not beating the door down, either.

This could easily have not been the case, however. The Wild have played the Stars three times this season, with the last two games following the exact same script: The Wild score twice early, let their foot off the gas, and let the Stars roar back. Had Minnesota not blown those leads, they'd be just 5 points out of the lead in the Central, a much more threatening position.

But things are the way they are, and the Wild can only focus on the task at hand: Stopping a team that has been pretty much unstoppable. Through 43 games Dallas has absolutely torched the NHL, tallying 146 goals- 20 more than the 2nd-place Washington Capitals. Sure, they had a 3-game losing streak against the Eastern Conference, but they're still a juggernaut to be reckoned with.

Even with their tremendous offensive prowess with Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and John Klingberg, Dallas still has a pretty exploitable weakness: their defense and goaltending. Dallas is about middle-of-the-pack in shots allowed, but the shots they do allow tend to count. Only Edmonton has given up more high-danger* scoring chances than Dallas, and that's just because (much like the Draft), the league is rigged to give the Oilers the #1 spot in that category. It should come as no surprise, then, that the Stars are in the bottom half of the league in Save%, with Kari Lehtonen looking particularly bad.

As for the Wild, they got a lucky break when Mikko Koivu avoided missing time after a scary collision with the boards that had him spitting up blood in Columbus. This wasn't enough for the team to defeat the Flyers on Thursday, as they lost their 7th overtime game of the season. In fact, 7 OT losses is tied for Vancouver for the most in hockey, and it's mostly a product of the coaching staff de-emphasizing speed and finishing ability. We saw the consequences of that in both of Minnesota's OT losses to Dallas, where once the Stars were able to get the puck from the Wild they were able to overwhelm the Wild with their dynamism.

It may or may not surprise you that quite a few Wild players have had more success vs. Dallas than any other team. Jonas Brodin, Charlie Coyle, Matt Dumba, Nino Niederreiter, and Jared Spurgeon have scored more points against the Sharks than any other team in the league. That might be something to watch out for.

Also worth watching is the status of Mike Reilly. Signed by the Wild after Columbus failed to get him under contract, Reilly may finally make his NHL debut tonight. Reilly's had a tough go this season in the AHL, but that needs to be taken with a grain of salt, as the Iowa Wild are about as bad as an AHL team can be. Surrounded by players more capable to compliment his offensive gifts, Reilly should be in a better position to succeed in Minnesota than Iowa.

Puck drops at 7:00 tonight, so let's take a look at the Tale of the Tape and lineups for tonight.

Wild@StarsJan9TotT

Projected Lineups

Minnesota Wild

Left Wing

Center

Right Wing

Zach Parise

Mikko Koivu

Jason Zucker

Nino Niederreiter

Mikael Granlund

Jason Pominville

Thomas Vanek

Charlie Coyle

Justin Fontaine

Erik Haula

Jarret Stoll

Ryan Carter

Left Defensemen

Right Defensemen

Ryan Suter

Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella

Matt Dumba

Mike Reilly

Jonas Brodin

Goalies

Devan Dubnyk

Never Gonna Happen

Dallas Stars

Left Wing

Center

Right Wing

Jamie Benn

Jason Spezza

Valeri Nichushkin

Mattias Janmark

Tyler Seguin

Patrick Sharp

Antoine Roussel

Cody Eakin

Colton Sceviour

Radek Faksa

Vernon Fiddler

Patrick Eaves

Left Defensemen

Right Defensemen

Alex Goligoski

John Klingberg

Jonny Oduya

Jason Demers

Jyrki Jokipakka

Jamie Oleksiak

Goalies

Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen

*A high-danger chance is a scoring chance from the front of the net or in the slot.