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Vanek, Zucker back in Wild lineup against Stars

Minnesota, 1-9-1 in past 11 games, hosts Dallas @NHLdotcom

STARS (33-15-5) at WILD (23-20-9)

TV: 8 p.m. ET; NBCSN

Minnesota Wild forwards Thomas Vanek and Jason Zucker will return to the lineup Tuesday for a key Central Division game against the Dallas Stars at Xcel Energy Center.

Vanek and Zucker were healthy scratches for the Wild's most recent game, a 4-1 loss Saturday to the St. Louis Blues that dropped Minnesota to 1-9-1 in its past 11 games.


"It didn't take a scratch for me to realize that I need to be better," Vanek, who has one assist in his past eight games, told the Wild website. "I'm just trying to find my game, I still am, and I'll start tonight by being better." 

Zucker is in an even more prolonged drought with one assist in his past 11 games. Coach Mike Yeo told the Wild website he needs to see a response from their returns to the lineup. 

"That's the key word," Yeo said. "Obviously that's a tough thing for those players, to be scratched. There's a reason why we were doing it as far as whether you want to call it a message to them, but also a message to the team as well." 

The Wild have fallen to sixth in the Central Division, three points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. 

Goalie Darcy Kuemper will start for the Wild after Devan Dubnyk played the past four games. 

Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen is expected to make his first start since Jan. 19 against the Los Angeles Kings. Lehtonen relieved Antti Niemi in a 5-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday. 

The Stars showed different lines in practice Monday, but coach Lindy Ruff indicated his combinations could remain mostly the same. Forward Travis Moen will re-enter the lineup and forward Colton Sceviour will be a healthy scratch. 

"When you go back to the last game, the lines did a lot of good things, but we didn't finish. I'd like to see them finish," Ruff told the Stars website. "Our five-on-five play was actually really good in the game where we didn't give up a lot." 

The Stars sit 16 points ahead of the Wild in the standings, but Ruff remains leery of their opponent Tuesday despite its recent struggles. 

"I think we are going to see a desperate hockey club," he said. "They are looking for one game to change the direction they are going. They are back home after losing three on the road, and we are going to see as desperate a team as you can possibly see." 

Here are the projected lineups: 


Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Eaves  

Patrick Sharp - Mattias Janmark - Valeri Nichushkin  

Antoine Roussel - Cody Eakin - Ales Hemsky  

Vernon Fiddler - Radek Faksa - Travis Moen 

Alex Goligoski - John Klingberg  

Johnny Oduya - Jason Demers  

Patrik Nemeth - Jordie Benn  

Kari Lehtonen 

Antti Niemi 

Injured: Jason Spezza (upper body) 

Scratched: Jyrki Jokipakka, Jamie Oleksiak, Colton Sceviour 


Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Charlie Coyle  

Nino Niederreiter - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville  

Thomas Vanek - Erik Haula - Jason Zucker  

Ryan Carter - Jarret Stoll - Justin Fontaine  

Ryan Suter - Christian Folin  

Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba  

Nate Prosser - Mike Reilly 

Darcy Kuemper 

Devan Dubnyk 

Injured: Jared Spurgeon (deep bruise), Jonas Brodin (foot) 

Scratched: Chris Porter, Niklas Backstrom  

Status report: Koivu left practice early Monday with some discomfort but will be in the lineup. Spurgeon is out after sustaining a deep bruise against the Blues, but Yeo said he could return Thursday against the Washington Capitals. 

Who's hot: Seguin has three goals in as many games and 28 for the season, third in the NHL. … Dumba has goals in consecutive games and a three-game point streak (two goals, two assists).

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