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Minnesota
Wild
40-33-9
Dallas
Stars
36-35-11

21 SOG
33 SOG
1st2nd3rdT
MIN
DAL
game preview

Wild-Stars Preview

Wednesday, 10.29.2008 / 7:30 PM

Associated Press

Off to a fantastic start for the second year in a row, history is repeating itself for the Minnesota Wild.

On Wednesday night, though, they'll attempt to overcome several years of futility in Dallas.

The Wild try for their first victory in Dallas since the 2002-03 season when they meet a Stars team struggling to keep the puck out of its own net.

For the second consecutive October, Minnesota (6-0-1) is the last remaining NHL team without a loss in regulation. The Wild opened 7-0-1 last season before losing 5-3 at Calgary on Oct. 24, 2007.

This year's start is arguably more impressive, as it has occurred despite the extended absence of star right wing Marian Gaborik. Gaborik, the team leader with 42 goals and 83 points in 2007-08, has missed the last five games due to an unspecified lower body injury.

Mikko Koivu's line with wingers Andrew Brunette and Antti Miettinen - a former Star - has picked up the slack, combining for 10 of Minnesota's 22 goals and 29 of its 59 points. That trend continued in a 3-2 home victory over Chicago on Monday, when Koivu had three assists and Brunette and Miettinen added one goal and one assist apiece.

"The goals come from Mikko's line, and it's a lot of goals," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. "If you look at their shifts, their shifts are all in the offensive zone. They control the puck so well, move the puck so well."

Miettinen, whom the Wild signed as a free agent in July, never had more than 34 points in his four seasons with Dallas (3-4-2) but is off to a blazing start with his new team. The right wing has six goals and three assists in seven games as he prepares to face his former teammates for the first time.

The Wild's visits to Dallas have not gone well. They are 3-8-2 with one tie all-time there, and the trend has grown worse in recent years. Minnesota has dropped eight straight games in Dallas since a 3-2 overtime victory on March 21, 2003, including a pair of defeats last season by a combined 11-4 margin.

While the Wild allowed 11 goals in those two games alone, they've given up a league-low 14 in their seven games this season. Nicklas Backstrom has been in net for all of those contests, posting a 1.98 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage. Dating to last season, he is 11-0-1 in his last 13 starts.

"He doesn't give up bad goals," Lemaire said of Backstrom, who made 34 saves in Monday's win. "They have to work for the goals they get."

Making opponents work for goals is precisely what the Stars aren't doing well enough. Dallas has already yielded 38 goals, including five or more in five of its nine games. The Stars rallied from two goals down to force overtime Saturday against Washington, but fell 6-5 when Alexander Semin beat Marty Turco at 2:17 of the extra session.

"The goals-against is a joke right now," coach Dave Tippett said. "There are a lot of guilty parties out there. It's not the way we do things around here, to have to score seven goals to win. Our goaltending hasn't been very good."

Turco has a 4.26 GAA and .842 save percentage. Backup Tobias Stephan hasn't been any better, yielding three goals on only 17 shots.

Turco has always played well against the Wild, though, going 11-4-1 with a 1.96 GAA in 19 games.

2008-2009 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Apr 07 '09DAL 1 at MIN 3E. Belanger
Mar 14 '09MIN 2 at DAL 3 - OTN. Grossmann
Nov 26 '08DAL 4 at MIN 3L. Eriksson
Oct 29 '08MIN 2 at DAL 4B. Richards
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
M. Koivu811213+4210
A. Miettinen86410-2422
A. Brunette8448+0020
K. Johnsson8145-1200
E. Belanger8224-1011
O. Nolan5134+1601
P. Bouchard5134+0000
M. Bergeron8213+2820
B. Pouliot8213+2200
B. Burns8213-4821
D. Boogaard8022+2900
S. Veilleux8101-5400
M. Gaborik2101+0000
C. Weller6011+2000
C. Gillies6011+0400
M. Zidlicky4011-3600
T. Mojzis2011-1000
M. Skoula8000+0200
N. Schultz8000-1400
J. Sheppard8000-6600
C. Clutterbuck6000-3000
E. Reitz4000+1200
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
N. Backstrom86-1-1172202.29.923
J. Harding10-0-01201.54.950
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
B. Morrow104711-22020
M. Ribeiro1011011-3410
M. Modano104610+3401
B. Richards10358-1001
L. Eriksson10437+1210
S. Robidas10167+01410
F. Brunnstrom8516-6021
S. Avery10156+03300
B. Crombeen10145+22100
J. Neal10224-2800
T. Daley10224-51000
K. Barch10213+11201
M. Niskanen10112-3010
S. Ott5112-11300
P. Boucher10011-1600
N. Grossmann10011-11100
J. Lundqvist9011+1200
M. Fistric9011+0400
T. Petersen8011+1200
D. Janik1000-1000
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
M. Turco93-4-2352214.26.842
T. Stephan31-0-05382.73.868