DALLAS – American Airlines Center is a beautiful arena.
Red brick on the outside, it kind of looks like a giant, lavish airplane hangar. The inside is state-of-the-art and spacious. The venue is a short walk down a hill from one of the most luxurious road hotels in the NHL.
The weather is usually nice.
So, the accommodations are always comfortable. The area is forever inviting. The building is hardly intimidating.
There is simply no earthly reason why the Wild hasn’t won in Dallas in more than 10 years.
It’s not like the Stars have been continuous powerhouses and the Wild annual doormats during this time.
Could this week be the week that “The Streak” finally dies?
Last Monday, the Wild won in Vancouver for the first time in 12 games. On Wednesday in Detroit, the Wild won in regulation for the first time since 2006.
The red-hot, very confident Wild has said for days it feels it can beat any team in any building. With two cracks in Dallas on Monday and Friday, we will now find out whether that’s true.
“We’re definitely in a different place right now than we were the last, well, however many years,” said center Kyle Brodziak, who has been part of the Wild’s past three years of Dallas losses and wasn’t in the NHL when the Wild last won here — March 21, 2003, on a Wes Walz overtime goal. “We’d like to break that streak, but the focus can’t be on that.
“We’ve got to go into the game just thinking about doing the right things, doing the things that have been making us successful. And if we do those things then hopefully things will take care of themselves and we don’t have to worry about that [streak] anymore.”
That streak is 16 consecutive games (0-11-5), tied for the longest current winless streak by one team in an opposing building (Calgary at Anaheim is the other).
Some fans have dubbed “The Streak” the “Curse of Norm Green” — the former North Stars owner who relocated the Minnesota franchise to Dallas in 1993. But the Wild has won in Dallas three times in 22 visits (3-13-5, plus one tie), so it can’t be all Norm’s fault.
“We should be excited for the challenge,” coach Mike Yeo said. “They’re playing well right now. They’re a desperate team. They’re playing good hockey and we have a lot of respect for them. The skill level they have on their team, we’re going to have to be prepared to play a very, very good hockey game.”
Monday, when the Wild puts on its road whites, it will be searching for its sixth consecutive regulation victory — something it has never done before. The Stars have won three of four but are 7-6-2 at home. The 16 points are the second-fewest at home in the Western Conference.
The Stars are loaded with talent up front but are a different team in the past. Longtime Wild nemesis Steve Ott now plays in Buffalo, meaning he won’t be running around like usual. The Wild also has had so much turnover the last year, from Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to Charlie Coyle and Jonas Brodin, half its roster has no clue such a streak of Wild futility even exists in Dallas.
“We don’t want to think about what happened in the past,” said Pierre-Marc Bouchard, the only current Wild player who played in that March 21, 2003, victory. “We’re just trying to focus on what’s ahead of us. We’re playing some good hockey right now. We’re all pushing in the same direction, so hopefully we can bring it in Dallas.”
The Wild seems to be gaining confidence with each passing victory, which has been best demonstrated by its starts. The Wild has scored first in nine of the past 10 games.
“Before, when you’re a team that’s not having a lot of success, you go into games with a bit of a question mark rather than just going out and trying to be the aggressor because you really trust and believe what you’re doing,” Brodziak said. “Our confidence level is up, and at the start of games we come out and we have a lot of energy and we’re trying to be the team that initiates rather than sits there and waits and dips our toe in the water.
“Starts are crucial. You have a good start, every line gets into the game and every player gets involved and it carries throughout the rest of the game.”
If the Wild can pull this off in Dallas, it might prove the Wild’s got something good going here.
“That’s true,” Brodziak said, laughing. “You know what, though, we’re a different team right now. We feel good about what’s going on here now. Now we just have to keep it going.”
• With rookie Jason Zucker relegated to the fourth line and Bouchard having retaken his second-line spot, Zucker was reassigned Sunday. Jake Dowell, better suited for a fourth-line role, was recalled. Mike Rupp, who has missed three games because of a lower-body injury, practiced and traveled to Dallas.
• The Wild also flipped backup goalies, recalling Darcy Kuemper and sending down Matt Hackett.