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Minnesota Wild at Dallas Stars Game 1 Preview

The Minnesota Wild play tonight at American Airlines Center for Game 1 of Round 1. Parise out indefinitely, Vanek week-to-week, Haula will miss Game 1, but is not ruled out for Game 2.

Duubs prepares himself for the Jan. 9th game in Dallas by squirting water in his face
Duubs prepares himself for the Jan. 9th game in Dallas by squirting water in his face
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

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The Minnesota Wild will faceoff against the Dallas Stars for Game 1 of Round 1 tonight at 8:30 PM.  The Wild traveled without two of their leading scorers, Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek. Erik Haula traveled with the team but is likely to miss at least Game 1 with an undisclosed injury. Even if Haula does manage to play, Minnesota is going to have to step up and fill the hole that is Zach Parise.

Regular Season Series

The Wild and Stars faced off 5 times throughout the regular season. The games except for one were all relatively close and ended up as follows:

Nov 14th MIN 2, DAL 3 (OT)

Nov 28th DAL 4, MIN 3 (OT)

Dec 21st- DAL 6, MIN 3

Jan 9th- MIN 2, DAL 1

Feb. 9th- DAL 4, MIN 3 (OT)

This could be a close match up or a blow out depending on who plays their style of hockey the longest. Three out of five games during the regular season went to OT, so it wouldn't be insane to expect a game or two to be a one goal difference. The Stars also showed the Wild they have offensive talent in a 6-3 blowout, however. In order to be successful enough to advance the Wild have to play their best hockey in Dallas and at home while filling depth gaps with so many players out for at least Game 1.

A common theme throughout these match-ups have been blown leads, specifically by the Wild. On November 28th, the Wild jumped out to a 3-0 lead after two periods, took their foot off the gas, and let the Stars pick apart Darcy Kuemper in the third period. Minnesota struck twice early on December 21st, chasing Kari Lehtonen after just 4 shots on goal. Dallas erased that 2-0 lead in the second, and went on to rout Minnesota. And Haula scored the first goal on February 9th, and the Wild couldn't capitalize on it, going on to lose the game in OT.

Match-up Preview

The Wild will be looking to start fresh and get back to the basics. Both teams will be well-rested and should be coming back strong. The Wild will be missing core players and have a pretty noticeable depth gap especially if players such as Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, Jason Zucker, Jason Pominville, Mikael Granlund etc. don't step up to the plate and show what they're made of. As it stands, the Wild's third and fourth lines consist of Justin Fontaine and several fourth-liners. Their job is simple: Defend, defend, defend. The Wild defensive corp is where they are deepest, and they'll need all three pairings to show off the mobility and defensive responsibility they're capable of. Devan Dubynk will be starting until further notice and hopefully will show up this series because it may be necessary to steal a game or four.

The Stars will have their core players and even may have Tyler Seguin back after missing the last 10 games of the regular season with a lacerated Achilles tendon. Mattias Janmark could return as well. The Wild's strength is playing strong D and that will be especially important this playoff series. Even with Seguin and Janmark possibly still out the Stars have plenty of offensive depth with players like Jason Spezza, Jamie Benn and Patrick Sharp among others. Where the Stars are a little weaker is defensive depth aside from John KlingbergJohnny Oduya, and Alex Goligoski. It's currently unknown who will be starting in net, but it shouldn't matter much, as Kari Lehtonen and Anti Niemi are kind of the same.

Interesting/upsetting Stats

Mikko Koivu led the Wild with 56 points, a total which would've been 5th on the Stars.

Dallas has had 3 30-goal scorers this season. The Wild have just had 2... in the entire Chuck Fletcher era (Pominville in 13-14, Parise in 14-15).

Dallas had 4 players with over 200 shots on goal (Seguin, Benn, Sharp, Spezza), and they combined to score on 13.3% of their 953 shots.

To compare, Minnesota's Top-4 in shots on goal (Parise, Ryan Suter, Pominville, Granlund) combined to beat opposing goalies on just 7.4% of their 769 shots.

Who's Hot

Nino Niederreiter - Despite having 0 points in his last 5 games, he has continued to make an impact defensively with his line being matched up against opposing teams' first lines time and time again. Being able to shut down the Stars first line will be very important this series.

Jason Spezza - 6 points (4-2=6) in last 5 games

Who's not Hot?

Mikko Koivu - 1 point (0-1=1) in 5 games

Vernon Fiddler - 0 points in last 5 games

We will have more updates throughout today as they become available.