The Wild has been idle for only two days but in that time, the team has fallen out of a playoff spot after getting leapfrogged by the Arizona Coyotes.
But the team can climb back into the second wild card berth in the Western Conference with a win Thursday at Xcel Energy Center over the Dallas Stars and if it gets help from the Anaheim Ducks, who take on the Coyotes.
“When you’re growing up and playing in the driveway, these are the kind of games you’re describing,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It’s not a Game 7, but it’s a five-point difference with 11 games to go if we’re not successful.”
Forward Luke Kunin will be back in the lineup after missing the previous two games with an upper-body injury after he was crushed with an open-ice hit last Thursday in Tampa. He’ll remain at center, a position that continues to get tested by injury. Joel Eriksson Ek is sidelined with a lower-body injury, an issue that Boudreau hopes doesn’t keep him out of commission more than a week.
“He’s a young player that plays with energy and does the right things defensively, and he’s a right-hander,” Boudreau said of Kunin. “So we’re glad to have him back.”
Wild players will encounter Stars goalie Ben Bishop in the offensive zone. Bishop is on a tear of late, posting three consecutive shutouts. He hasn’t allowed a goal in a career-best 204:20.
“You gotta get to the net and get in front of him and do the things that are going to aggravate him,” Boudreau said. “If he sees everything, he’s stopping it right now. So you gotta do things so he can’t see the puck.”
Zach Parise-Eric Staal-Kevin Fiala
Ryan Donato-Luke Kunin-Jason Zucker
Jordan Greenway-Victor Rask-Pontus Aberg
Marcus Foligno-Eric Fehr-J.T. Brown
Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin-Greg Pateryn
Nick Seeler-Brad Hunt
400: Career games for winger Jason Zucker.
1: Win for the Wild in three games this season vs. the Stars.
.946: Save percentage for goalie Devan Dubnyk this season against Dallas.
1: Victory for the Wild in its last nine home games.
5: Wins for Dallas in its last six games.
About the Stars:
Dallas is occupying the first wild card seed in the Western Conference and with 77 points, it’s just two points shy of the St. Louis Blues for the third spot in the Central Division. The Stars are 7-3 in their last 10 games, which includes four road victories. Center Tyler Seguin continues to lead the team in goals (27), assists (36) and points (63). Captain Jamie Benn has 33 points in 38 career games vs. the Wild. Goalie Ben Bishop boasts a .932 save percentage and 2.08 goals-against average through 39 starts, going 23-14-2.