Minnesota Wild Game Preview: VS. Dallas Stars


The Minnesota Wild get ready for a big divisional match-up on Saturday night, a night after the Wild beat the Toronto Maple Leafs is St. Paul. This will be the teams’ third and final bout in Dallas this season.

The Wild will have just a couple of lineup changes from last night’s game. Jason Zucker will play his first game since being sidelined with a stomach virus. He and Stu Bickel will draw into the lineup while Justin Fontaine and Tyler Graovac will be healthy scratches.

Can’t say I’ve got a great explanation for the sitting of Fontaine and playing Bickel (who has played in two other games against Dallas this year, while playing in six others total). Not really sure why Fontaine is in the doghouse at all to be honest. He hasn’t scored all that much this season with just three goals and seven assists. Part of that is that his shooting percentage is down to 7.7% from a ridiculous 16.5% last year. But he has the second best possession numbers on the team at 5-on-5 (among players who have played at least six games). Also, at 57% he has the best Usage Adjust Corsi For among all Wild forwards. (Usage Adjusted Corsi via Own the Puck. Other values via War on Ice.)

Playing Stu Bickel over him in a game against a team that’s just one point behind you in the division doesn’t make a ton of sense to me. Dallas has played physical with the Wild, but the Wild have won both games in Dallas so far this year. Whatever “physicality” that Dallas is perceived to bring as a threat hasn’t been useful in winning games against the Wild so far.

For just the third time in his career Darcy Kuemper will take both nights of a back-to-back. As Michael Russo points out, this hasn’t gone great for him previously.

Kuemper’s numbers are on the rise following three strong starts after the holiday break. He’s only got the 11th worst SV% in the NHL at 5-on-5 (minimum 240 minutes) at this point and his Adjusted Save Percentage has risen as well, putting him at eighth worst in the NHL. However, he’s had a .944 overall SV% in the last three games where he’s 2-1. It’d be great to see a fourth straight solid start out of Kuemper. The team hasn’t played great in front of him lately and it’d be nice to see him step up and cover them while the possession game lags and defensive errors seem to be on the rise.

Lines should be somewhat similar. First and third lines are likely to remain the same (Parise-Koivu-Pominville // Niederreiter-Coyle-Haula). We’ll see on the other two. Conventional wisdom would say that Zucker slides up into the second line with Thomas Vanek and Kyle Brodziak, but if conditioning is in question at all with all the time Zucker missed while sick, then he might start the game on the fourth line, which would mean that maybe Matt Cooke or Ryan Carter slides up into the second line.

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On the Dallas side of the ice, they acquired defenseman David Schlemko off waivers today. It was rumored that the Wild were considering doing the same, but Friday’s win bumped the Wild ahead of Dallas in the standings and thus moved Dallas ahead of Minnesota in waiver priorities, giving them first shot at claiming Schlemko.

We talked about Schlemko on the site this morning, if you want to know a little more about that signing.

Dallas, in a corresponding move, sent rookie defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka back to the AHL and also placed fourth line center Shawn Horcoff on IR.

Dallas has been improving throughout the season and has recently been playing much better than they were when the Stars and Wild last faced off.


Just a quick game preview here today. Game starts at 7pm CST and can be seen on FS-N and FS-WI. You can catch on the radio on KFAN or iheartradio.com.

For live game updates follow us at @FSGonePuckWild. We’ll also have updates on the Iowa Wild, Alaska Aces, and Quad City Mallards, who are all in action tonight.