Tonight the Minnesota Wild welcomes our old friends the Dallas Stars to town for the second in a five game home stand. This is not good news for the Wild, who since December 1st have won just six games in 21 tries at the X. In three of their last five games at home they’ve been shutout.
The wild are in desperate need of some good old fashioned home cooking if they hope to keep their dwindling playoff hopes alive. They’ll have to start that process tonight against Ben Bishop and a surging Stars squad making their own push for the post-season. Bishop has logged 204 consecutive minutes without surrendering a goal, earning him shutouts in his last three appearances.
On top of that, the Stars have won six of their last eight games, four of their last five road games, and are 2nd in the NHL with 172 goals allowed this season. The trending situations here don’t look good on paper for your Minnesota Wild. With the Wild relinquishing their 2nd wildcard playoff spot to the Arizona Coyotes they now sit outside the playoff bubble and need to turn things around at home and do so real fast.
The Stars offense tends to sputter though. They are ranked 29th in the NHL with 174 goals for this season. There is no reason Ryan Suter and company shouldn’t be able to shut down an inconsistent Stars offense. Leading the charge for the Stars is Tyler Seguin (27g-36a), Alexander Radulov (21g-34a), and Jamie Benn (25g-21a). This trio has combined for 164 or the Stars 467 points this season, 35% of their offense.
The Stars also boast a top-5 penalty kill, knocking off 82.7% of their kills. With the power play, both teams are middle of the road. The Stars have the edge by a tenth of a percentage point, scoring on 19.8% of their man-advantage chances whereas the Wild on the season have converted 19.7% of their power play opportunities. The Wild have not converted on a power play in their last 6 games however, 0 for their last 18 chances. The struggling power play for the Wild was a focus for the Wild in their Wednesday practice.
Ultimately, the Wild’s dismal home record of over the past few months is really unsettling. The Wild will be carrying their most recent shutout loss on their backs coming into tonight’s game, a 3-0 clubbing by a very good San Jose Sharks team. It is just the latest in a long line of disappointing home games that almost make you want to rip your eyes out. How it is this team can lay the lumber to the best team in the league one day, and just a few short days later lay a total egg at home?
The Stars most recent outing came against the Buffalo Sabres in Buffalo on Tuesday night. They managed to shutout the Sabres 2-0 with Roope Hintz pocketing both goals for the Stars that night. Hintz has seven goals on the season with four in his last seven games as well. The kid has shown some flashes this season and has been thrust into a top-six role with the Stars.
Scanning down the injury report it looks like the Wild will get a little boost to their lineup as Luke Kunin will be ready to go tonight after missing the last two games with an upper-body injury. Joel Eriksson Ek will miss tonight’s game with a lower-body injury. Of course Mikko Koivu is still lost for the season and Matt Dumba‘s is still despite him taking to the ice for some solo skating yesterday. There have been no changes in Dumba’s status, Bruce Boudreau said he was “just bored” so don’t expect him on the ice anytime soon. For the Stars, Mats Zuccarello is out with a broken arm. Martin Hanzal is out as well with a back injury, Tyler Pitlick has an upper-body injury and Marc Methot is out after having knee surgery.
Puck drop tonight is 7 pm; look for our game thread to drop a little before the puck does.