DALLAS -- The Minnesota Wild's penalty kill, which has been building toward its own high standards over the past 13 games, will face its latest test on Saturday against the Dallas Stars.
With a top unit of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp, and John Klingberg, it's a five-man unit ripe with talent, and a power play converting at 30.2 percent, second-best in the NHL.
"The easiest way is not to take any penalties," Jared Spurgeon said.
It's something the Wild has been good at this season. Minnesota has been shorthanded 33 times, the fewest in the League.
But if the Stars should find themselves on the power play, two areas the Wild pointed out were zone entries and seam passes. The Stars have the speed to gain the blue line very quickly, and the skill to stretch the penalty-killing box and open up lanes.
"Entries are huge," Spurgeon said. "If they can get in clean that's not good for us. Having a good forecheck on the PK, and on their entries, being able to disrupt it and not let them make a clean pass on their way in."
Charlie Coyle said the Wild will be keeping track of who is out there, and noted the Stars top power play unit is loaded with right-handed shots. (Four of the five players on the top power play are righties, with the one exception, Benn, the net-front player.)
The Massachusetts native also said a challenge the Stars present is with Spezza at the point, and Seguin playing below him, diagonally, there's a temptation to close the seam to deny Seguin the puck, but that Spezza's shooting ability makes it hard to concede too much space.
"You have to work harder," Coyle said. "You get second, third, fourth efforts, clearing pucks, and taking bodies, and just being aware. We have to focus out there."
The Wild will also likely dress seven defensemen after Marco Scandella rejoined the team. Forward Brett Bulmer was recalled from Iowa on Friday, but Head Coach Mike Yeo said Minnesota will need to be strong defensively against the League's top-scoring team, which factored into the decision.
"Just going with the guys that have been here and going with the guys that have played games recently for us, that's the direction we're going to go," Yeo said. "With a lot of the call-ups they're getting six, seven minutes, so it's not a huge time to replace. Looking at all of our forwards there are a lot of guys who can fill that void."
With the Wild not playing again until Tuesday, and with no skate on Saturday, Yeo said fatigue is not a factor, and the Wild has the versatility in its lineup to shuffle some things around and make everything fit.
Here are the Wild's projected lines:
Jason Zucker – Mikko Koivu – Nino Niederreiter
Thomas Vanek – Mikael Granlund – Jason Pominville
Ryan Carter – Charlie Coyle – Jordan Schroeder
Chris Porter – Erik Haula
Ryan Suter – Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin – Matt Dumba
Marco Scandella – Christian Folin / Nate Prosser