The Dallas Stars will look to keep rolling at home when they take on Central Division rival Minnesota tonight at American Airlines Center.
The Stars have won five straight home games, the last four victories against teams from the Central. In those four wins against division foes, the Stars have a 13-2 advantage in goals.
“It was a big message in training camp, how we are going to play at home and how we are going to play against our own division,” said Stars center Tyler Seguin. “Tonight’s a big night for us. Against Minnesota the games are always tight, so looking forward to it.”
Overall, the Stars are 17-4-0 at home. Their .810 points percentage is tops in the league and their 34 points at home are second to Chicago’s 35 (17-5-1). Within the division, they are 8-2-1. They won eight games against the division last season.
“Obviously, that’s a big step in the right direction for us,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “I said earlier we just want to try to remain consistent with our game. I think we’ve seen the results where division games we’ve been able to win. The home record has gone up, and we’ve had some inconsistencies on the road that we’ve got to clean up, but our home game has been where we’ve needed it to be, and that improved record is a big factor of why we are where we are.”
Antti Niemi was the first goaltender off the ice for the Stars, so it appears he will get the start tonight against the Wild. Niemi is 2-0-0 vs. Minnesota this season with a 2.08 goals-against average and .930 save percentage.
On defense, Jamie Oleksiak will come into the lineup after sitting out the past 13 games as a healthy scratch. Patrik Nemeth will be the odd man out on defense tonight. Jordie Benn did not skate this morning and is expected to miss a second straight game with a lower-body injury.
There are no expected changes with the forwards. Ruff will use the same 12 forwards from Thursday’s 2-1 shootout win over Winnipeg, and it appears he will go with the same lines he used to start that game, which had Seguin and Jamie Benn skating on separate lines. Travis Moen skated late this morning and is expected to be a healthy scratch.
Ales Hemsky, who is on injured reserve with a lower-body injury, skated with the team this morning. He will miss his sixth straight game, but should be ready to go when the Stars return to action late next week.
“Ales is doing pretty good,” Ruff said. “I’d anticipate with a good week of work that he’ll be ready to play come next week.”
The Stars spent a good part of Saturday morning’s skate working on the power play, which has struggled lately. It is 1-16 over the past six games.
“We’re not generating enough attempts to get the puck in the back of the net,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “I think some of our desperation to get pucks back hasn’t been good enough, but it’s something that we haven’t practiced in weeks, so we decided gameday to spend a little extra time.”
Devan Dubnyk will start in goal tonight for the Wild, who are 3-1-2 in their past six games. Defenseman Mike Reilly, called up from the AHL on Friday, is expected to make his NHL debut tonight. This will be the fourth meeting between the Wild and Stars this season. The Stars have won the first three, including two in overtime. The Wild blew a 3-0 lead in one loss to the Stars and a 2-0 lead in another one of the losses.
“To be honest with you, I don’t think that we played a 60-minute game and so when you play against a team like that, obviously, you’ve got to be ready to bring it for 60 minutes,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “I thought we were a little bit fortunate in a couple of those games to get the leads that we did. That’s a great team over there that we’re playing, so we can’t accept anything less than our best here tonight. We’ve had spurts of really good hockey against them, but when they’ve pushed we haven’t pushed back, and I think that’s going to be a big key tonight.”
Who: Minnesota Wild at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:00 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Jamie Benn – Jason Spezza – Valeri Nichushkin
Mattias Janmark – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Sharp
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Colton Sceviour
Radek Faksa – Vernon Fiddler – Patrick Eaves
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Jason Demers
Jyrki Jokipakka – Jamie Oleksiak
Injured: Jordie Benn (lower body), Ales Hemsky (lower body)
Scratched: Travis Moen, Patrik Nemeth
Zach Parise – Mikko Koivu – Jason Zucker
Nino Niederreiter – Mikael Granlund – Jason Pominville
Thomas Vanek – Charlie Coyle – Justin Fontaine
Ryan Carter – Jarret Stoll – Erik Haula
Ryan Suter – Jared Spurgeon
Marco Scandella – Matt Dumba
Jonas Brodin – Mike Reilly
Injured: Nate Prosser (undisclosed).
Scratched: Niklas Backstrom, Chris Porter
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.