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Wild Opens Weekend Back-to-Back in Dallas

Minnesota hopes to continue solid play in place that hasn't been kind over the years

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

DALLAS -- The Minnesota Wild will step back inside divisional play this weekend when it plays the first of back-to-back games against Central Division rivals on Saturday versus the Dallas Stars. 

The Wild has not played a game against a division foe since a 3-2 overtime win over the Nashville Predators on Dec. 27 and has played just four games against the Central since the beginning of December. Minnesota has won all four of those games.

The American Airlines Center has been a tough place for the Wild over the years. Minnesota dropped a 3-2 decision here back in November in its only trip of the season to Texas and will return here again in a little more than a week to play its third and final matchup of the regular season at this site.

Minnesota is 7-17-8 all time in games played in Dallas.

The Wild is coming off arguably its most impressive victory of the campaign, a 7-1 win over the Atlantic Division-leading Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center.

Minnesota limited Montreal to 21 shots on goal and kept the Canadiens off the scoreboard until the final seconds of regulation, when Tomas Plekanec buried a rebound with 8.5 seconds left. The goal came on one of Montreal's four scoring chances in the game, as charted by the Wild coaching staff.

"You do that, you gotta be doing something right, I don't care how tired the team is that you're playing against," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "To give up fewer than 10, we think is great. And to give up only four, that's really good."

Its the second consecutive game Minnesota has surrendered just one goal after holding the Anaheim Ducks in check in a 2-1 Wild win in Southern California on Sunday.

The two victories have moved the Wild to a plus-44 in goal differential this season, second in the NHL behind Columbus (plus-45) and by far the best in the Western Conference (the Chicago Blackhawks are second at plus-17).

The game against the Canadiens was a good measuring stick for the Wild as it preps to play two more speedy, skilled teams this weekend in the Stars and Blackhawks.

"It's a great little lesson or precursor to what we're going to see," Boudreau said. "Both of those teams are going to present the same kinds of problems but I don't think they'll be fatigued like the team we played [Thursday]."

Dallas has struggled to find consistency this season, as evidenced by its 18-17-8 record. The Stars have gone 5-3-2 over their past 10 games, however, and have slowly been getting healthy. Captain Jamie Benn returned from a foot injury in Dallas' 5-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday.

Goaltending has been an issue for the Stars all season, but Antti Niemi has played well in each of his past two starts.

Following Saturday's tilt, Minnesota will fly straight to Chicago for a 6 p.m., nationally-televised (NBC Sports Network) game against the division-leading Blackhawks.

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