Season Series: This is the third of four season meetings, with the home team prevailing in each of the first two. In the last meeting, Dallas beat Minnesota at American Airlines Center, 2-1 in a shootout on Feb. 4. Mike Ribeiro scored in regulation before Jamie Benn sealed it in the shootout.
Big Story: One team with a tenuous hold on eighth place in the Western Conference will welcome another who would like nothing more than to displace them. After a 3-1 win in Chicago on Thursday, Dallas will look to free themselves from a three-team tie for the final playoff place with a win over Minnesota. The Wild – also coming off a win on Thursday night, a 3-2 shootout victory at Florida – is three points behind Dallas.
Wild: Within the span of two games – its first back-to-back wins since Jan. 21-24 – Minnesota has wedged itself back into the race for eighth in the West. It started with a 2-0 win over Boston on Sunday, and continued on Thursday against Florida. Kyle Brodziak and Matt Cullen scored and, despite allowing a late goal to send the game to overtime, Minnesota still managed to win in the shootout for a pair of valuable away points. After losing five straight, Niklas Backstrom appears back to his shot-stopping ways, saving 99 of 101 shots over the last two wins.
"It's nice, you get two goals like that bang-bang right off the hop, but great for Backstrom, too, first off for getting us to that point," coach Mike Yeo said. "He stood in tall for us, and then in the shootout he was great, too."
Stars: Dallas is also a winner of two straight, moving temporarily into the eighth position. Dallas shut out Montreal earlier this week, then cooled off the NHL’s hottest team with a 3-1 win over Chicago at the United Center. Down 1-0 heading into the second intermission, the Stars roared back with three in the third to shock the Hawks – and snap their five-game winning streak. Steve Ott, Michael Ryder and Loui Eriksson all got off the mark for the Stars, and Richard Bachman made 26 saves for his first win since Jan. 7 against Edmonton.
“It was nice to get back into a game and see a little bit of action,” Bachman said. “Being on the road and getting two big wins in exciting arenas to play in, going home with those definitely gives you momentum.”
Who’s Hot: Cullen has two goals in two games. … Ribeiro has scored in five straight games. He has two goals and five assists over that stretch.
Injury Report: Josh Harding and Mikko Koivu both missed Thursday’s game for undisclosed reasons. Mike Lundin (lower body), Carson McMillan (lower body), Clayton Stoner (lower body), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion/groin) and Jarod Palmer (upper body) are all on injured reserve. … Sheldon Souray (bruised foot) and Adam Burish (illness) played Thursday against Chicago, but Jamie Benn missed the game with lacerated left leg. Jake Dowell (upper body) and Brenden Morrow (neck/back) are on IR.
Stat Pack: The Western race is literally too close to call. Dallas is tied on points (66) and games played (61) with Calgary in ninth and Los Angeles in 10th. The Stars are the final playoff place’s current occupants by way of their 27 regulation-and-overtime wins.
Minnesota currently sits 12th, with 63 points in 60 games.
Puck Drop: Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan took no credit for the third-period assault, instead praising his “leadership group” for the comeback.
“We were lucky to get out of the second. Our leadership group took a stand in between the second and third, and we got going. I didn’t do anything between periods. Our leadership group pushed forward and got the job done.”