At one point, the Stars occupied the third seed in the Central Division that the Wild has had a hold on for weeks.

Now, though, Dallas is on the brink of being unable to catch the Wild, as a loss by the Stars Thursday at Xcel Energy Center would put its division rival out of reach.



“I believe that they will play their best game ever,” coach Bruce Boudreau said “They will come out and if we’re not absolutely ready to be at the best of our game, we’re going to have to play better than we’ve played in the last five games to beat these guys. The toughest game to ever win in a playoff series is the fourth game. The toughest game is an elimination game in the regular season, and so I expect with their pedigree and from their coaching on down to the number of great players they have that this will be a real battle.”

The Wild will try to hold off the Stars with a different lineup, as Gustav Olofsson will draw in for Nick Seeler – a decision Boudreau made to keep Olofsson involved, as he’d been a healthy scratch for the previous four games.

“He’s played over 40 games for us,” Boudreau said. “So we believe that when he’s on top of his game against a good-skating club, he’s really good.”

This is the first of two in a row against the Stars, as the season series between these teams will wrap up Saturday in Dallas. The Wild has collected at least a point in six straight, going 3-0-3, and during that run, the team has given up more than two goals a game just once.

“It’s the right time to do that, and I know there’s a lot of great offensive teams in this league, and we just played a few of them,” Boudreau said. “But if you can play good defense, you’re always in the games no matter who you’re playing.”  

Projected lineup:

Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Nino Niederreiter

Jason Zucker-Eric Staal-Mikael Granlund

Jordan Greenway-Matt Cullen-Charlie Coyle

Marcus Foligno-Joel Eriksson Ek-Daniel Winnik

Ryan Suter-Matt Dumba

Jonas Brodin-Ryan Murphy

Gustav Olofsson-Nate Prosser

Devan Dubnyk

Key numbers:

3-0-3: The Wild’s record in its last six games.

58: Points on home ice for the Wild, tied for second-most in the NHL.

4: Game point streak for winger Zach Parise.

5: Points in two games against the Wild for Stars center Tyler Seguin.

1: Win for Dallas in its last nine games.

About the Stars:

Dallas has fallen back of the playoff pace in the Western Conference, sitting five points back of the second wild-card berth. A recent eight-game losing streak contributed to that slide; the Stars snapped out of that funk Tuesday with a 3-2 overtime win over the Flyers. With goalie Ben Bishop sidelined with a knee injury, Kari Lehtonen has taken over the Stars’ crease. He’s 13-13-3 with a 2.54 goals-against average and .912 save percentage. Seguin leads the team offensively with 39 goals and 73 points.