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Modano may end career where it began -- in Minnesota

by John Kreiser

STARS (36-31-14) at WILD (38-36-7)

Last 10 -- Dallas 5-4-1; Minnesota 4-5-1

Season series -- The teams conclude their seasons with the last of their four meetings. Home teams have won the first three, including Minnesota's 3-2 victory in the Stars' last visit to the Xcel Energy Center on Nov. 7.

Big story -- Is this Mike Modano's last game with the Stars -- or in the NHL? If so, Modano will be playing it just a few miles away from where his career began with the Minnesota North Stars in 1989 before the franchise moved to Dallas four years later. Though he hasn't said anything more than that he'll strongly look at whether to come back next season, Modano turns 40 this summer and has seen his ice time and responsibilities reduced as the season has gone on.

Team Scope:

Stars -- Modano may not have announced a decision on his future, but he sure looked like someone who wasn't planning on coming back during Dallas' final home game of the season on Thursday night. He shed a few tears during the 3-2 shootout win over Anaheim -- in which he scored the tying goal late in regulation and the deciding goal in the shootout -- especially after a standing ovation late in the third period. There could be some more emotional moments on Saturday as he returns to where his career started.

"The (Minnesota) fans have been great ever since we moved and every time we return, it's been a great reception," he told the team's Web site. "I'm guessing it's going to be just as tough as tonight to say goodbye to them."

Wild -- The Wild had six regulars out of the lineup on Thursday but still managed a 2-1 shootout win at Calgary. Backup goaltender Wade Dubielewicz relieved injured starter Nicklas Backstrom and got the win thanks to a solid performance by the kids. Expect coach Todd Richards to go with another youth-heavy lineup.

"It's a great chance for the younger guys to get to play. It's such a good opportunity for them and for us, who are still playing for pride," defenseman Brent Burns, who logged 29 minutes and scored in the shootout, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Who's hot -- Dallas rookie Jamie Benn, who's been playing on a line with Modano, has 3 goals and 6 points in his last five games. Stars center Brad Richards has 5 points in his last four games and has matched his career high with 91 points.

Injury report -- Dallas forward Krys Barch (leg cut) may sit again, as he did on Thursday. … Minnesota forward James Sheppard will miss the game with a lower-body injury. Backstrom is expected to play after taking a shot in the throat on Thursday and being forced to leave the game. Owen Nolan (knee), Marek Zidlicky (arm), Guillaume Latendresse (back) and Martin Havlat (hamstring) didn't play Thursday and aren't likely to dress for this one.

Stat pack -- Modano is the all-time leader in goals (557) and points (1,359) among U.S.-born players but has not scored a goal in Minnesota since Jan. 13, 2002. Saturday's game will be the 1,459th of his career, all with the Stars' franchise. … The Wild has just 13 road wins, a big reason they'll be watching the playoffs on TV, but three have come in Calgary -- the first time Minnesota has ever won three times at the Pengrowth Saddledome. The Wild had won just three times in its first 25 visits to Calgary in eight seasons.

Puck drop -- If this really is Modano's swan song, it's appropriate that his last game will be played in front of the same fans who welcomed him into the NHL 21 years ago.

"It was something I never realized on the calendar until later in the year," Modano said of the season finale. "To see that it was going to land in Minnesota, I don't know what to expect when I go back up there. The fans have been great ever since we moved and every time we return, it's been a great reception. I'm guessing it's going to be just as tough as tonight to say goodbye to them and what they meant at such an early stage in my life and career."

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