The Dallas Stars will look to end their five-game homestand on a high note when they take on the Minnesota Wild at American Airlines Center tonight.
The Stars have won three straight and are 3-1-0 on the homestand. That’s helped push their overall record to 9-9-4 and their record at home to 4-5-4. They still have a ways to go on both fronts, but they are making progress.
But there’s another part of the Stars’ record that has been a sore spot this season, and that’s their mark against the Central Division. They are 0-5-2 against teams within their division, including 0-2-0 against the Wild, tonight’s opponent. They play Colorado, another Central Division foe, Saturday.
The divisional record is something the Stars need to turn around because the first path to the playoffs is to finish in the top three in your division.
“When you look at the end of the season, the teams that are on top are the teams that are good against their division,” said Stars center Vernon Fiddler. “It’s something we have to get better at. I don’t think we look at it before we play a team but you play these teams so much, that you do get an awareness of teams in your divisions, especially as the season goes on.”
The Stars are five points out of the third and final playoff spot in the Central. They also are five points out of the final wild card spot, which is held by the Central Division’s Winnipeg Jets, who are 3-3-1 vs. the Central. Minnesota is just outside of a playoff spot, two points ahead of the Stars. The Wild are 5-0-0 vs. the Central. Colorado, which is one point behind the Stars, has yet to win within the division (0-3-2). It’s only November, but these are big points.
“You want to put yourself in position to make the playoffs, and you make the playoffs by being good in your division, so yeah, they’re big games,” said Stars defenseman Trevor Daley. “There’s more at stake, because when you get the points, they don’t get any, and that’s going to be big at the end of the season.”
Lineup notes: Sceviour questionable tonight, Stars recall McKenzie
Stars forward Colton Sceviour did not skate this morning and is questionable tonight due to illness. The Stars have recalled Curtis McKenzie from the Texas Stars of the AHL just in case Sceviour can’t play.
Kari Lehtonen was the first goaltender off the ice, so it appears he will make his ninth straight start.
Defenseman Jordie Benn will be a healthy scratch for the fourth straight game.
Garbutt to serve first game of two-game suspension
Stars forward Ryan Garbutt will serve the first game of his two-game suspension tonight. The league suspended Garbutt Thursday for kneeing Edmonton’s Taylor Hall in Tuesday’s game at American Airlines Center.
“I think they explained it in the video, Stephane Quintal did on the NHL.com website, so that’s all I got to say about that,” Garbutt said.
This is the third time the league has disciplined Garbutt. There was a five-game suspension early last season for a hit on Anaheim’s Dustin Penner. The league fined him during last season’s playoffs for spearing Anaheim’s Corey Perry.
“Just going to continue to play my game and do the things that got me here,” said Garbutt. “I had to scratch and claw to find my way to the NHL and I’m not going to change the way I play. I’m just going to try to do things that don’t hurt the team and actually do the opposite, to help the team win.”
Darcy Kuemper is expected to get the start in goal tonight for the Wild. He has stopped 46 of 48 shots in two wins over the Stars this season.
Defenseman Jonas Brodin, who has missed seven games due to illness, is expected back in the lineup tonight.
Who: Minnesota Wild at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest Plus
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Stars projected lineup
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Patrik Eaves
Erik Cole – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Curtis McKenzie/Colton Sceviour
Shawn Horcoff – Vernon Fiddler – Travis Moen
Trevor Daley – Jason Demers
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Jyrki Jokipakka – Jamie Oleksiak
Suspended: Ryan Garbutt
Injured: RW Valeri Nichushkin (hip), D Patrik Nemeth
Wild projected lineup
Zach Parise – Mikael Granlund – Jason Pominville
Jason Zucker – Mikko Koivu – Thomas Vanek
Nino Niederreiter – Charlie Coyle – Erik Haula
Ryan Carter – Kyle Brodziak – Justin Fontaine
Ryan Suter – Jared Spurgeon
Marco Scandella - Nate Prosser
Keith Ballard – Jonas Brodin
Scratched: Stu Bickel, Matthew Dumba
Injured: Matt Cooke (hip)
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.