The Minnesota Wild are in Dallas this evening to take on the Stars for the second half of a home and home series space some three days apart. Dallas even got the added joy of another game squeezed in last night, which they lost 4-1 to Nashville. Puck drop is slated for 7pm Central Time in Big-D. The Wild have taken the first two meeting of the season, both at the Xcel Energy Center. Minnesota has been hot since the first of the year going 7-3-0 in that span while the Stars have been in free fall posting a record of 1-8-1. Currently the Wild are in 4th place in the Central Division with 59 points, 8 points in front of 5th place Nashville and 9 points in front of now 6th place Dallas. The Wild have a great chance to pick up another two points tonight in an arena they have not fared well in historically. All time Minnesota is 4-14-6 playing in Dallas.
The big story heading into tonight’s game is the Wild’s goaltending situation. Darcy Kuemper will be getting his 5th straight start in net with Niklas Backstrom out of action at least for tonight with a lower body injury. The team reports he had an injection to help with the problem and he is listed as day to day. That means Johan Gustafsson has been called up from the Iowa Wild to back up Kuemper tonight. Kuemper has been fantastic in goal since being called up at the start of the month. He’s posted 4 wins to just a single loss and has a season goals against average of 2.13 and a save % at .922. Last outing against the stars he got the OT win making 33 saves on 35 shots and looking strong from start to finish.
The other player called up to join the NHL Wild was Jon Blum. He has played a total of 4 games with the big club this season and was recently sent down as Nate Prosser moved back into the lineup. It’s not clear at this time if he will be playing tonight or is just up as an insurance policy. We’ll see closer to game time. If Blum is not in the lineup the defensive pairings will be the same as last game. Ryan Suter with Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella skating with weekend hero Nate Prosser, aka “Mr. Elk River”. The final D-pair is Clayton Stoner and Keith Ballard.
With Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu still on IR the forward lines look to be the same as last game and the game before that and etc. The top line of Dany Heatley, Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle has been producing on a regular basis. Coyle has been very hot with 2 goals to go with 4 assists over his last five games teamed with Heatley and Zucker. The second line remains the young guns line with the pair of 21 year olds teamed with the Wilds leading goal scorer. Jason Pominville has lit the lamp 19 times so far this season. Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund have also contributed with Nino’s 9 goals and 17 helpers with Granlund’s 3 goals and 17 assists. Third liners tonight once again are the grouping of Matt Cooke, Kyle Brodziak and Justin Fontaine. Fontaine is the Wild’s top rookie with 12 goals and 5 assists. He seems to have really found a home on the line with Cooke and Brodz after moving up and down in the lineup from top line to press box throughout the season. The fourth line remains the same with Torrey Mitchell, Erik Haula and Stephane Veilleux. Mike Rupp looks to be the healthy scratch once again. This stable line up even without stars Parise and Koivu has been producing win after win so Mike Yeo’s not gonna mess with success until the big guns return to the lineup.
The Wild have a big opportunity to pick another two points at the expense of the Stars tonight. This will allow them to at least keep pace with the Colorado Avalanche who have maintained an 8 point lead over Minnesota in the super competitive Central Division. After this evening the Wild face some of the best in the Western Conference in the San Jose Sharks, The Anaheim Ducks and the aforementioned Avalanche. I’ll be back after the game with a recap, opinion and some analysis. Until then this is Scott Drain a hollerin’, “LET’S GO WILD”