Minnesota Wild (17-14-4) at Dallas Stars (17-14-5)
|Date & Time||Saturday January 3, 2015, 8:00 PM (EST)|
The Line: Dallas Stars -134 / Minnesota Wild +121 --- Over/Under: 5.5
|TV Channel||Stream NHL games all season on ESPN+ for only $4.99 a month. Sign up now!|
After a tumultuous start to the season the Dallas Stars are finally playing the type of hockey that a lot of people expected coming into the season. Behind early Hart Trophy nominee Tyler Seguin the Stars are starting to show the dynamic offense that looked like it would be on paper, and it was all on full display on Wednesday night against the Phoenix Coyotes. The victory gave the Stars their eighth win in their last 10 games and third straight overall. They’re now just six points out of a wild card spot in the Western Conference playoff picture. It didn’t start off great for the Stars in this game, managing just three shots on goal during a scoreless opening period. Whatever head coach Lindy Ruff said to the team during the intermission clearly worked because they came out strong to start the second. Dallas got goals from Brett Ritchie and Colton Sceviour to take a 2-0 lead with them into the third period. Jamie Benn’s power play goal 1:19 into the third made it a 3-0 lead, and Cody Eakin, Ales Hemsky, and Ryan Garbutt all added goals as the Stars cruised to a 6-0 win. Kari Lehtonen made 32 saves to record the shut out and pick up his 16th win of the season. It has been a very up and down season for this club but right now they’re playing some of the best hockey in the league. With the offensive fire power they have in their lineup this is a club that is a threat against any team they play. If Lehtonen and the defense can provide some stability they should be able to stay in this race for the long haul. The schedule gets a little tougher here with games against the Wild, Blackhawks, and Predators coming up but it should be a good test for this club with the way they’re playing right now. Their opponent on Saturday night has been in a bit of a cold streak of late so the Stars are going to want to find a way to jump out on them early and take advantage of a club that’s lacking confidence right now.
Minnesota entered Friday night’s home match against the Toronto Maple Leafs having lost six of their last seven games. They’ve dropped a point behind the Stars in the Central Division standings and right now they’re in one of those stretches where they keep finding ways to do just enough to lose games. Friday night against the Maple Leafs was a battle for the Wild but one they found a way to come out on the winning side of. Minnesota didn’t play a great game on home ice but Darcy Keumper kept them in it all night long. When the Wild strong in the opening period it was Keumper who made the saves to give them hope going into the second. Kyle Brodziak’s fifth goal of the season helped to settle things down for the Wild but a delay of game penalty by Ryan Suter early in the third period proved costly. Toronto capitalized on the man advantage and tied the game at 1-1 before Jared Spurgeon regained the lead for the Wild for good. Less than two minutes after Spurgeon’s goal it was Mikko Koivu with his sixth goal of the year coming on the power play to make it a 3-1 game for Minnesota. This was not a pretty win by any means for the Wild but with the way they’re going right now points are all that matters. Taking advantage of a team like the Maple Leafs on home ice is one thing but traveling to Dallas and beating a team like the Stars that can put the puck in the net is another.
Dallas is playing better hockey right now and are the rested club on home ice. They’re favored accordingly but the price isn’t overwhelming given how well they’ve been playing lately.