ST. PAUL -- The Dallas Stars look to continue their playoff push against the slumping Minnesota Wild tonight at Xcel Energy Center as the two teams hook up for the fourth and final time this season. The home team has won each of the previous three meetings.
The last time these teams played in St. Paul on Jan. 21, the Wild won 5-2, thanks to four second-period goals. Since Dec. 13, Minnesota has won just nine times and the win over Dallas that Saturday is perhaps the team's most impressive in that stretch.
Since then, the Stars have morphed into the NHL's hottest team, winners of five straight games. Dallas hans't lost a game in regulation in nearly a month -- Feb. 19 against Nashville, going 9-0-1 over that stretch.
The streak has pushed the Stars from the outside of the playoff race to the peak of the Pacific Division, two points ahead of Phoenix and four clear of San Jose.
If its winning ways was not good news enough, Dallas also got its captain back Saturday night as Brenden Morrow returned after missing 18 games with an upper-body injury. Morrow came back in style, too, netting the game-winning goal in a 2-0 win over Anaheim.
"It's a pretty long layoff, but the team was playing well and it gave me the time to take care of the body and get healthy again," Morrow said. "I didn't want to screw anything up. The team's been playing great, so it was nice to come in and help out. Spent too much time in the penalty box, though."
The Stars' winning ways allowed the team to take a hands-off approach to Morrow's rehab, affording him to use the full time-frame to get healthy instead of rushing him back. Morrow said he's not all the way back yet, but he's getting closer everyday.
Regardless, Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said having Morrow back in the lineup will definitely help with the grind of the final month, where back-to-back games become more regular.
"He gives us a big, heavy body in there and has a good voice in the locker room," Gulutzan said. "It's going to take him a few games to get up to 100 percent, but I thought his first game was pretty good."
The Stars are dinged up on the back end, however, as defenseman Sheldon Souray is suffering from a lower-body ailment that will keep him out of the lineup tonight and likely again tomorrow in Winnipeg. Forward Radek Dvorak will also miss tonight's game with an ankle injury suffered against the Ducks on Saturday.
Like with Morrow, Dallas plans to play it cautiously with both as Gulutzan says he has confidence in the guys who will replace them in the lineup, defenseman Jordie Benn and Ryan Garbutt.
"[Souray] and Devo are in the same boat, I'd rather have them at 100-percent healthy, or as close to it as we can get rather than to try and push them to play at 75, 70 percent," Gulutzan said. "We need healthy guys and we have healthy guys who can step in and help us."
The Stars called up defenseman Benn on Monday from AHL Texas. He has an assist in two games with Dallas this season and leads Texas defensemen in scoring with 28 points in 56 games.
Along with brother Jamie, a forward, the Benns are just the third set of brothers to play for the Stars at the same time since the team moved from Minnesota in 1993 and just the sixth in franchise history.