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Wild, Stars To Meet In First Round Of Playoffs

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

Of the near 310 minutes the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars have played against each other this season, close to 210 have been played with the score tied or within a goal.

If that's any indicator of how the first round 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs could be between the Western Conference and Central Division rivals, the Wild is in for a dogfight.

But it already knew that.

"Whoever we were going to end up with, we knew it was going to be tough," Devan Dubnyk said. "We played well against our division this year, and almost every one of the Dallas games was overtime besides a couple of them. It should be difficult."

To Dubynk's point, looking at the win-loss record and how the season series played out doesn't paint the clearest picture of how close the Wild and Stars played each other this season. Though Dallas won four out of five games, three of those victories came in overtime.

In that respect, the Wild said it feels it has gone toe-to-toe with the newest Western Conference regular season top seed.

"It's important: You don't want to be going into a series against somebody that has beat up on you all year," Dubnyk said. "Three of them were in three-on-three, and they don't have three-on-three in playoffs. We don't have to worry about that.

"It's going to be tough, and they're very high-flying."

Though the Wild likes to play at a higher tempo, there are contrasting styles that will be at play. Minnesota's blueprint is bred out of its defensive prowess; the Stars are the NHL's highest-scoring team.

"They've got a lot of offense, a lot of depth on their team, so we need to prepare with our strengths, and the way we play the game," Mikko Koivu said. "We have to be as a team from the first puck drop, and start building our game from there. It's a big, big challenge for us, but with our game, and the way we play, we can challenge any team in this league."

Paramount on that checklist will be stopping, or at the very least limiting Dallas' deadly duo of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.

The former, Dallas' captain finished second in the NHL in scoring with 89 points, and hit the 40-goal plateau for the first time in his career. The latter scored 33 times, and is recovering from an Achilles injury, expected to practice on Monday for the first time since sustaining it March 17.

"They're probably the best one-two in the league," Dubnyk said. "Can probably argue Chicago's pair there isn't so bad, either. But they're just guys that you have to be aware of, especially in the playoffs, you just don't want to forget when they're on the ice, and give them too much open ice, or give them too many open opportunities because they don’t miss very often."

Having navigated the first round the past two seasons, and defeating a division champion in each year — the only team in the NHL to have done so — the Wild isn't banking on its past success to buoy its 2016 run, but know what it takes and thinks it has those same ingredients.

"It's why we don't want to talk about the last few games," Dubnyk said. "It's difficult to make the playoffs in this league, and it's an accomplishment, and that's what we worked on all year to do."

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