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Stars attempt to deny visiting Wild a sixth straight win

by Brian Hunter

WILD (18-10-2) at STARS (15-13-3)


Last 10: Minnesota 8-2-0; Dallas 5-4-1

Season series: Second of three meetings. Zach Parise had the lone goal in Minnesota's 1-0 win at Xcel Energy Center on Jan. 20. The teams now meet in Dallas twice, playing again on March 29.

Big story: The Wild are on a tear, but the Canucks have to started to win again to make the Northwest Division race an entertaining one heading down the stretch. The Stars aren't going to challenge for the Pacific title, but they're on the bubble as far as making the Stanley Cup Playoffs and could use two points themselves.

Team Scope:

Wild: It was a packed house at Xcel on Saturday, with the crowd of 19,358 representing the second-largest in franchise history, and Niklas Backstrom didn't disappoint. The Wild netminder turned aside all 33 shots he faced in a 2-0 victory over the Sharks, and was supported by Parise's game-winning goal at 12:10 of the second period and a power-play goal in the third from Jared Spurgeon that provided a little insurance.

"It feels good to be there right in the beginning for the guys because they've been there every night for me," Backstrom said after improving to 16-7-2 this season.

Stars: Back-to-back wins have thrust Dallas back over the dividing line and into the top eight in the Western Conference, as the Stars look to end a four-year postseason drought. At age 41, the remarkable season of Jaromir Jagr continues -- the Czech superstar scored his 13th goal this season and the 678th of his career to punctuate Saturday's 5-2 win over the Avalanche. He also set up an Eric Nystrom goal to record his 999th NHL assist.

"I think it was probably one of our most complete games that we've played," said Cody Eakin, who also tallied. "We've been trying to work on playing 60 minutes and there were times that they came on strong, but we stood with it."

Who's hot: Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter each assisted on both goals for the Wild on Saturday. Suter has two goals and 15 assists in his past 13 games, while Koivu has four goals and eight assists in his past 10 games. Backstrom has won his last five starts. … Jagr has goals in three straight games for the Stars, and six total points over that span. Kari Lehtonen has stopped 73 of 75 shots in winning his past two starts. His save percentage (.923) is fifth best in the League.

Injury report: Minnesota forward Mike Rupp (lower body) is day-to-day. Goalie Josh Harding (illness), who recorded a shutout in the Jan. 20 meeting between these teams, is out. … Dallas defenseman Aaron Rome (foot) and forward Ryan Garbutt (hand) are on injured reserve.

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