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Wild Doesn't Want To Sacrifice Defense For Offense

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

While the Minnesota Wild scratches and claws to find enough offense in its first round series against the Dallas Stars, the Wild knows the defensive posture it has shown over its first 120 minutes of playoff hockey can't sag.

Facing the NHL's top offense in the Dallas Stars, the Wild conceded two goals in Game 2, and four in Game 1.

Minnesota trailed 2-0 in Game 1 before giving up a late power-play goal, and an empty-netter.

"Our second game was definitely a lot better," Jason Pominville said. "Our first game we kind of handed them a few opportunities, and they were able to capitalize on them. Overall, our second game was much better."

Though the focus the past few days has been on doing some scoring of its own, yet to score an even-strength goal this series, the Wild doesn't want to sacrifice in its own end to create that offense. 

"That's the most important thing, because you don't want to open the game up, especially against a team like that," Pominville said. "A defending-first mentality still has to be our focus, and we can't deviate from that."

In Game 2, the Wild produced 19 scoring-chances at five-on-five, and 10 high-danger chances, the same number as Dallas.

There are things the Wild can do that it thinks will help create more scoring, like getting more traffic in front of Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen, and getting their sticks in shooting lanes.

Continuing to limit Dallas is something Minnesota thinks can also help it on the other end of the ice.

"If we play well defensively, we're going to give ourselves opportunities to have offense," Jason Zucker said. "If we come back hard, we'll be able to have more speed coming in on offense on a line rush. If we're blocking shots, we're going to be able to get back down the ice quicker because of a turnover."

The Wild thinks its defensive effort can even get tighter than what it was in Game 2. Sans a whacky, video-reviewed changed goal, Minnesota gave up a breakaway in the third period to Jamie Benn that proved to be the difference.

It came on the tail-end of a 39-second shift for Benn, spent primarily defending in his defensive zone.

"That's what they do best," Pominville said. "You try to take a chance, and you miss, and bang, they're gone the other way. And they capitalize on the chances they get."

Forward Kurtis Gabriel, one of eight players recalled as part of the Wild's "black aces" group from Iowa, took morning skate on Monday, and was on a line with Chris Porter and Zac Dalpe during rushes.

"He's a hard-working kid," interim Head Coach John Torchetti said. "Good on the walls. Physical. He likes to fight. He's the kind of player you like."

The Stars will make changes to their lineup on Monday. Forward Tyler Seguin, who played in Game 2 for the first time since missing 11 games due to a lacerated Achilles, returned to Dallas for more rehab after irritating something related to his injury.

Stars Head Coach Lindy Ruff said it's also unlikely Kris Russell will play in Game 3 due to an illness.

Ruff had said on Sunday at Stars' practice that forward Mattias Janmark, who played in Game 1 but not 2, would be back in the lineup for Game 3.

Here is the Wild's projected lineup:

Mikael GranlundMikko KoivuDavid Jones

Jason ZuckerCharlie CoyleJustin Fontaine

Nino NiederreiterErik HaulaJason Pominville

Kurtis GabrielZac DalpeChris Porter

Ryan SuterJared Spurgeon

Marco ScandellaNate Prosser

Jonas BrodinMatt Dumba

Devan Dubnyk

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