Who: Minnesota Wild (26-9-5, 57 points, second place, Central Division) at Dallas Stars (18-17-8, 44 points, fifth place, Central Division)
Puck drop: 7:00 p.m. CT
Watch: FOX Sports North; FOX Sports GO; Wild Watch Bar Locations; NHL.TV
Listen: KFAN 100.3 FM
Follow: @mnwild; GameCenter
The Dallas Stars have struggled to find consistency this season, as evidenced by their 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 year, but Antti Niemi has played well in each of his past two starts and is trending in the right direction.
• Stars assistant coach Curt Fraser played three seasons with the Minnesota North Stars from 1987-90.
The Wild plays its 41st game Saturday, marking the halfway point of its regular season schedule. Last season, Minnesota also played Game 41 in Dallas (a 2-1 Wild victory on Jan. 9). At 26-9-5 this season, Minnesota's 57 points are the most through 40 games in franchise history (previously 50, 2015-16 and 2002-03). Regardless of Saturday's outcome, this season will mark a franchise record for most points after Game 41, surpassing 52 points (22-11-8) in 2015-16.
At the Rink
The Minnesota Wild open a weekend back-to-back against Central Division teams when it plays the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on Saturday.
It's the first time since Dec. 27 the Wild has played a game inside the division and just the fifth time since Dec. 1.
"The divisional games are always close games, big points," said Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper. "We're going to be up for it, they're going to be up for it and it's gonna be a good game tonight."
Kuemper was taking shots from the defensemen today, indicating he was the likely starter. Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said Friday that he wanted to start both goaltenders this weekend, making Devan Dubnyk the starter for Sunday's game in Chicago by default.
It's the second time Kuemper has started in this building this season and Dallas is a group he knows well.
"I'm familiar with their players and a lot of what they bring," Kuemper said. "Every time we play them it's a tough game. It seems always to be a close game and comes right down to the wire and I expect the same thing tonight."
Minnesota is expected to ice the same lineup as it did in a 7-1 win over the Canadiens on Thursday. Like he did two nights ago, Boudreau put his team through a more practice-like morning skate.
The session only lasted 15 or 20 minutes, but guys were able to work up a quality sweat. Thursday, Minnesota worked on its power play during morning skate, but Boudreau wasn't pleased with how the team came out in the first period.
Boudreau added a little more skating to the mix on Saturday.
"I thought our start against Montreal wasn't very good," Boudreau said. "They have to have their legs going into a game against a team that can really skate. On the road, I don't think you can afford a bad start."
Here are the projected lineups:
Zach Parise - Eric Staal - Charlie Coyle
Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund
Nino Niederreiter - Erik Haula - Jason Pominville
Chris Stewart - Tyler Graovac - Jordan Schroeder
Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin - Christian Folin
Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba
Jiri Hudler - Jason Spezza - Tyler Seguin
Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Patrick Eaves
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Patrick Sharp
Lauri Korpikoski - Devin Shore - Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Stephen Johns
Johnny Oduya - Jordie Benn