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Stars aim to close gap on Wild in Central Division

by Dan Myers

WILD (34-21-7) at STARS (30-23-10)


Last 10: Minnesota 7-1-2; Dallas 6-2-2

Season series: This is the final game of the season between the Central Division rivals. The home team won each of the first three, the Wild 5-1 and 3-2 in St. Paul and the Stars 4-0 at American Airlines Center in the most recent game Jan. 21.

Big story: Dallas, with 70 points, holds the second wild-card berth in the Western Conference. The Stars will look to close the gap on the Wild, who leads them by five points for the top wild-card slot. Minnesota, which has won a season-high five straight, has a game in hand.

Team Scope:

Wild: Minnesota was one of the busiest teams leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline, sending a fourth-round draft pick to the Edmonton Oilers for goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov and trading two second-round picks and forward Torrey Mitchell to the Buffalo Sabres for forwards Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick. Moulson and McCormick are expected to make their Wild debuts Saturday, and Bryzgalov is expected to serve as the backup to Darcy Kuemper, who will make his 15th straight start.

Following the first practice with Moulson and McCormick on Thursday, coach Mike Yeo said he was excited about the added depth.

"I liked the look of them before we went out on the ice and I liked the look of them after we came off the ice too," Yeo said of his lines. "We felt really good about our team and where we were at going into this trade deadline, and we feel that we're a strong team now, we're a deeper team. So we're excited to put it to work now."

Stars: Dallas did some deadline work of its own, acquiring former Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas from the Florida Panthers in exchange for backup goalie Dan Ellis. After initial reports Thomas was unhappy about the trade, Thomas said Thursday he's glad to join a team pursuing a postseason berth.

"I'm very excited to be here and to have the opportunity to play with another group of guys and to make the push for the playoffs here," Thomas said. "It's an exciting opportunity.”

Prior to the game, the Stars will retire the No. 9 jersey of longtime captain Mike Modano. Selected No. 1 by the Minnesota North Stars in the 1988 NHL Draft, Modano played in 1,459 games with the Stars organization, scoring 557 goals and 1,359 points and becoming one of the greatest American-born hockey players of all-time. Modano will be the fourth member of the Stars organization to have his number retired.

Who's hot: Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon has five points in five games since returning from a fractured foot, including a goal in Minnesota's 3-2 win against the Calgary Flames on Monday. In 48 games this season, Spurgeon has two goals, 15 assists and a plus-5 rating. ... Stars center Tyler Seguin had three goals and two assists in a 6-1 win against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday. The hat trick was Seguin's third three-goal game this season, tying a franchise record. It was his second five-point game of the season.

Injury report: Wild forward Jason Zucker (leg) is on injured reserve. Goaltenders Josh Harding (illness) and Niklas Backstrom (abdomen) are not expected to play again this season. … The Stars report no injuries.

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