DALLAS – The Wild hasn’t played in more than a week, but the team doesn’t have time to ease back into the schedule – not when its visit to Dallas Friday to take on the Stars is the start of 14 games in a 26-day span.

“We can’t think of it as an excuse that we had a break, and we’re allowed to be sloppy,’’ winger Marcus Foligno said. “You’ve got to demand perfection right away. … The first period, we’ve really got to put an emphasis on that. We don’t want to get behind the eight-ball. Our first period has to be our best period [Friday]. If we can get a jump on a team like Dallas in the first period, that’s going to help us.

“We don’t want to think about it as, ‘Let’s take a game and see where we are after [Friday’s] game.’ We’ve got to jump in right away. [It’s] a good test against a division rival.”

 

 

Before an eight-day layoff, the Wild had rattled off three straight wins – a streak that helped it climb into the third spot in the Central Division.

Still, with 32 games to go, plenty can change in the Western Conference.

“After the break, after the All-Star Game, you know it’s the stretch drive,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “You know every team is going to be pushing every night. You want to play meaningful games, and it looks like we’re going to be playing them.”

Defenseman Anthony Bitetto, who was claimed off waivers during the break, won’t make his Wild debut against the Stars, but the team will get center Eric Fehr back after he missed nine games with a lower-body injury.

“You certainly notice the need for a right-handed centerman to take faceoffs when he’s out,” Boudreau said. “He’s a good player. He’s blocking shots and doing the right things before he got hurt and doing really good at penalty killing. … He’s a good fit for this team so it’s going to work out well.”

Projected lineup:

Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund

Jordan Greenway-Eric Staal-Charlie Coyle

Zach Parise-Victor Rask-Pontus Aberg

Matt Hendricks-Eric Fehr-Marcus Foligno

Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin-Greg Pateryn

Nick Seeler-Brad Hunt

Devan Dubnyk

Key numbers:

600: Career games for forward Matt Hendricks.

6: Wins for the Wild in its last eight road games.

3: Points for winger Zach Parise in his last three games.

3-0: Goalie Devan Dubnyk’s record in his last four games.

10: Points for defenseman Jared Spurgeon in his last 12 games.

About the Stars:

Dallas returned from its layoff Wednesday, shutting out the Buffalo Sabres 1-0. It was the Stars’ second straight win and pulled the team within one point of the Wild for the third seed in the Central Division. They’re 1-1 this season against the Wild, falling 3-1 in the first meeting Oct.18 in Dallas before persevering in overtime 2-1 Dec.22 in St. Paul. Goalie Ben Bishop posted 30 saves Wednesday against the Sabres. It was his third shutout of the season, which is tied for second in the NHL.

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