One big reason why the Minnesota Wild probably aren't going to the playoffs for the first time in three years is their play against the Dallas Stars.
Minnesota will try to avoid being swept by Dallas in a season series for the first time when the teams meet on Tuesday night for the final time in 2008-09.
Minnesota (37-33-9) recorded a franchise-best 104 points in 2006-07, then won its first Northwest Division title last season. Besides losing three one-goal decisions to Dallas this season, the overall health of some top players have contributed to the Wild's position outside the top eight in the Western Conference.
They lost franchise scoring leader Marian Gaborik for 65 games with a lower-body injury and ensuing hip surgery. While he's had seven goals and three assists in eight games since his return, the Wild have alternated wins and losses en route to a 4-3-1 record.
Mikko Koivu, the team leader with 44 assists and 62 points this season, hasn't recorded a goal since March 14 in a 3-2 overtime loss in Dallas. He's failed to notch a point in eight games since then, and has also missed three with a right knee injury.
Following this game, 10th-place Minnesota wraps up the season at home against Nashville and at Columbus. The Wild's playoff hopes were all but dashed Sunday with a 3-2 loss to Central Division champion Detroit.
Needing at least one point to retain any realistic hopes of playing past the regular season, Niklas Backstrom allowed Marian Hossa to score with 55 seconds left.
"The only thing we can do is work as hard as we can," said Minnesota's Cal Clutterbuck, who had a goal and assist. "The rest is out of our hands."
Andrew Brunette has scored one goal in each game against the Stars this season. His 21 tallies are second on the team to Owen Nolan's 24.
Dallas (35-34-10), which is not headed to postseason for the first time since 2002, is coming off a 5-4 overtime win in its home finale against St. Louis on Saturday.
Trevor Daley scored 16 seconds into the extra session, giving goaltender Matt Climie the win in his NHL debut.
"Obviously, we play all these games to play in the post-season and when you're not given that opportunity, it's disappointing," Daley told the Stars' official Web site. "At the end of the season, we're going to look back and reflect on it, and we're going to be upset about what happened."
Climie, recalled from Idaho of the ECHL on Friday, got the start over Marty Turco (lower-body injury) and fellow rookie Tobias Stephen.
Loui Eriksson continued his breakout season with two more goals in the loss, increasing his team-leading total to 36. The left wing has a goal and six assists against Minnesota this season.
Stars defenseman Darryl Sydor, winding down his 17th NHL season, needs two goals for 100 and one point for 500 in his career.