The Dallas Stars sit near the bottom of the Central despite their current hot stretch, and that’s largely due to their poor mark against divisional foes over the course of the season.
They’ll try to solve the Minnesota Wild for the first time in four meetings while looking to earn a fourth consecutive victory Saturday night in Dallas.
The Stars (17-14-5) have won seven of eight after routing Arizona 6-0 on Wednesday, but they are only one point ahead of last-place Colorado in the seven-team Central. They started 0-7-3 against divisional opponents before beating St. Louis on Dec. 27 to start this three-game winning streak.
"(Games within the division) are huge," captain Jamie Benn told the team’s official website. "They’re almost like four-point games and we need to turn that around because it could mean so much climbing up the standings. We haven’t been doing that great of a job against our own division yet."
Dallas has been on a roll lately, though, providing some encouragement heading into a stretch during which four of its next five are against Central clubs.
"I think we’ve been going pretty good here of late and we just want to carry it into a new month and a new year," said Benn, who had a goal and an assist Wednesday. "We’re still a little bit behind the eight ball here and we need to catch up points wise, so we need to get off to a good start (Saturday) night."
The Stars are 0-2-1 against the Wild (18-14-4) this season. They erased a 3-0 deficit in the last meeting Nov. 28 before Marco Scandella’s overtime goal gave Minnesota a 5-4 road win.
The Wild jumped one point ahead of Dallas with Friday’s 3-1 victory over Toronto after it went 1-3-3 in its previous seven.
"They probably look like us when we were going through our (rough) stretch where now it’s finding ways to lose instead of finding ways to win," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said before the Wild faced the Maple Leafs. "We’ve dominated parts of games (against Minnesota), dominated the game in our building we lost. We’ve got to make sure that we take care of our own end first, and when we get the opportunities, we put it in the back of the net."
The Wild broke the tie against Toronto with goals from Jared Spurgeon and Mikko Koivu less than two minutes apart in the third period. Darcy Kuemper, who has been in net for all three meetings against the Stars, made 34 saves.
"You look at the standings, we’ve got to just keep that going," center Erik Haula said. "We keep playing our best hockey when our backs are against the wall."
Niklas Backstrom could be in goal for Minnesota after he was activated from injured reserve. A stomach virus has kept him out since his last appearance Dec. 20, when he relieved Kuemper in an overtime loss to Nashville.
Backstrom has given up at least three goals in five straight starts and is 1-2-2 with a 3.64 GAA in his last five against the Stars.
Kari Lehtonen could be back in net for Dallas after winning his third straight start with 32 saves against Arizona, his third shutout of the season. However, he has a 3.67 GAA while losing all three meetings with Minnesota this season.