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Wild Warmup: Minnesota vs. Dallas

Wild and Stars complete their season series Thursday in St. Paul

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com

The essentials

Who: Dallas Stars (22-26-10, 54 points, sixth place, Central Division) at Minnesota Wild (37-13-6, 80 points, first place, Central Division)

Puck drop: 7:08 p.m. CT

Watch: FOX Sports North; FOX Sports GoWild Watch Bar locationsNHL.TV

Listen: KFAN 100.3 FM

Follow: @mnwild; GameCenter


At the rink

With a bye week on the horizon and a compacted March schedule after that, Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau will start Darcy Kuemper in goal against the Dallas Stars on Thursday at Xcel Energy Center.

Kuemper, who will likely see plenty of action over the final quarter of the regular season, will be making his first start since last Wednesday in an overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. 

Devan Dubnyk is likely to start the final two games before the five-day bye week begins next Wednesday, so giving Kuemper an opportunity to get some playing time was vital.

"We think it's important with all the games we have after [the bye week]," Boudreau said. "If he didn't play, you're playing [Dubnyk] today, Saturday and Tuesday then you have the bye week, then when we return, we have the bye week and it'd be his first time in 2 1/2 weeks without a lot of practice. I don't think that's conducive to success.

"We need him to be good for us to be good because we're not going to be able to play [Dubnyk] 22 games in a row after the break."

Video: Bruce Boudreau Pregame vs Dallas

In Dallas, Kuemper is seeing an opponent with whom he is certainly familiar. It will be his third start against the Stars this season, and Minnesota has gained at least a point in each of the first two games. The Wild is 1-0-1 in contests against Dallas that Kuemper has started, with both of those games coming at American Airlines Center.

"They play hard and they're pretty creative offensively," Kuemper said. "They always seem to give us a tough game and like the other ones, it's going to be tight. We need to be ready for it and bring our best effort."

The Stars ended the Wild's season in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, but Minnesota has carried the play of late during the regular season, posting an 8-2-4 mark in the past 14. Minnesota carries a six-game point streak versus Dallas into the game (4-0-2) and is 6-1-2 in the past nine contested in St. Paul.

A win tonight by the Wild would even the all-time series record; Minnesota is 26-27-12 against the Stars since joining the NHL in 2000.

Dallas trails Minnesota by 26 points in the Central Division standings, but the Stars will be in desperate search of points to stay afloat in the playoff race and the season hits the stretch run.

"We all know the situation; they really need points and they're going to be desperate," said Wild forward Mikael Granlund. "We're going to be ready as well. It should be a good battle."

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Mikael Granlund - Mikko Koivu - Jason Zucker

Nino Niederreiter - Eric Staal - Alex Tuch

Zach Parise - Charlie Coyle - Jason Pominville

Chris Stewart - Erik Haula - Jordan Schroeder

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella - Christian Folin

Gustav Olofsson - Nate Prosser

Darcy Kuemper

Devan Dubnyk

STARS

Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Patrick Eaves

Devin Shore - Jason Spezza - Tyler Seguin

Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Patrick Sharp

Curtis McKenzie - Adam Cracknell - Brett Ritchie

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg

Dan Hamhuis - Jordie Benn

Jamie Oleksiak - Patrik Nemeth

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi
 


The opponent

The Dallas Stars have lost two-straight games and are clawing to stay in the Stanley Cup Playoff race in the Western Conference. A record of 3-6-1 over their past 10 games has made that task more difficult, as the Stars sit six points back of the Kings for the second wild-card spot. Los Angeles has three games in hand, however. In addition to making up that ground, the Stars also have to leap-frog four other teams, including Winnipeg, which defeated the Stars 5-2 at MTS Centre on Tuesday night.


Connections

• Stars assistant coach Curt Fraser played three seasons with the Minnesota North Stars from 1987-90.


Bouncing back

Minnesota is 13-3-2 following a loss of any kind this season, including seven straight wins. The Wild has posted regulation losses in consecutive games just once this season (Nov. 1 versus Buffalo and Nov. 5 at Colorado). Minnesota's 13 regulation losses this season are tied for the second fewest in the NHL. The Wild had nine instances of at least two consecutive regulation losses last season, and its 33 regulation losses ranked 13th in the NHL.

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