Tonight against the team that eliminated them from the playoffs last April, the Wild makes a quick jaunt to Dallas before a brief two-game homestand this week.
The Wild scored three goals during a 1-2 homestand and has lost five of its past eight games, scoring two goals or fewer in seven of those games.
Asked how he’ll match up against the star-studded Jamie Benn-Cody Eakin-Tyler Seguin line, coach Bruce Boudreau said kiddingly, “Well, right now we have four checking lines.”
He basically said it’s “pick your poison” because the Stars can also throw at you Patrick Sharp-Jason Spezza-Patrick Eaves.
“We don’t really have a choice there,” Boudreau said. “Our focus quite frankly is everybody should know how to play defense when we don’t have the puck. And everybody should be going full bore when we do offensively. If you have that kind of team, usually you feel secure in whoever’s out there against anybody. That’s the way I want to feel.”
Darcy Kuemper vs. Antti Niemi tonight.
Defenseman John Klingberg won’t play for Dallas. Coach Lindy Ruff wasn’t happy. The kid who lit up the Wild for fun last regular season missed a morning meeting and is being disciplined. Julius Honka, a smooth-skating, playmaking 20-year-old Finn, will make his NHL debut. The little guy looks like he’ll step right into the top power-play unit, but he has grit, too. He leads the Texas Stars in penalty minutes.
Esa Lindell was also recalled and will play. Johnny Oduya is hurt, so Ruff said the Klingberg mistake is “bad timing.”
“For me, it sums up our year,” Ruff said. “Yesterday was a day off for the team, but he’s going to be treated no differently than anybody else who’s missed meetings. Not going to play. His play’s been up and down. Today was really what has frustrated me with our team. We haven’t been able to maintain a high enough level of consistency, and team-wise, that’s from some players.”
On Klingberg’s inconsistency, Ruff said, “There’s a lot of try in John, and sometimes the try gets him in trouble. Sometimes trying too much by himself gets him in trouble. But it’s not from lack of trying, it’s never from lack of effort. It’s just trying to get his head in the right place.”
Klingberg was embarrassed and apologized to his teammates.
Kind of reminds me of Matt Dumba and Mike Reilly, the pair on Colorado’s game-winner the other night.
The Wild needs more consistency from the two of them if they’re going to be paired together. For the most part, Boudreau has been OK with both.
“I talked to Scott [Stevens] about this, Reilly’s a very good prospect,” Boudreau said. “But you can’t not play. You’ve got to play them to see what you’ve got in them, especially at this time of year. Dumba’s played some great games for us. I don’t have a problem [with playing them together] because we can fit them against opposition that’s fine. Reilly, the first goal he was on for the other night was the first goal he was on for since he’s been called up.
“He hasn’t hurt us by any stretch, and Matt has had a positive impression on our team this year.”
On the gap by Reilly on the Nathan MacKinnon goal, Boudreau said, “I agree the gap was horrible, but at the same time, the change wasn’t good either. He was caught between, ‘Should I go up or should I go back?’ And anytime you’re in that position, you want to make sure you’re safe. Like I would have loved to have him go right at MacKinnon and make him make a move at the blue line, but he chose to [back up]. That’s not an uncommon play. A lot of veterans would have made that play as well.”
The Wild, including a 4-0 home win Oct. 29, is 6-2-3 in its past 11 games against the Stars and is 3-1-1 in its past five regular-season games in Dallas after an 11-year stretch of 1-14-5 here.
The Stars are 3-3-3 in their past nine and are last in the West and 29th in the NHL with 3.37 goals against per game. Of course, the Flyers and Flames were terrible defensively when the Wild played them recently, and the Wild lost both games.
Kuemper made 35 saves in an overtime win in Ottawa last Sunday, so he’s excited to see if he can “carry that momentum into tonight.”
On the Stars, Kuemper said, “I fortunately played against them quite a few times last year. They’ve got a lot of skill. It’s an exciting challenge. You know you’re facing some of the best shooters and playmakers in the league.”
Lines tonight are expected to be
Christoph Bertschy will only play if somebody else gets sick. As you know with Parise, strep throat is trickling around. Nate Prosser didn’t take part in the optional morning skate today, so it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out he’s sick. This is one of those where he was told to stay away and could probably play if he feels better and the Wild runs into a pickle.