Wild hope to take offensive momentum to Dallas (Jan 14, 2017)

BY AP • January 13, 2017

DALLAS -- Central Division rivals the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars know one another quite well, especially after squaring off in the opening round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring. Dallas took that series in six games -- the Stars' first playoff series win since 2008.

The division rivals meet again in the third of five meetings this regular season on Saturday night at American Airlines Center and, as always, it promises to be an entertaining contest.

Minnesota (26-9-5), which is 8-1-1 in its past 10 games, heads to the Lone Star State fresh off a 7-1 win over Montreal on Thursday night at XCel Energy Center in St. Paul, a game in which Matt Dumba and Eric Staal each had three points.

Wild first-year coach Bruce Boudreau knows his team jumped on a Canadiens squad that looked tired on the tail end of a back-to-back, but Boudreau still saw one huge positive from that victory, even considering the circumstances from which those two points arose.

"I think we only gave up four scoring chances (Thursday)," Boudreau said on Friday after practice. "To give up fewer than 10, we think is great and to give up only four is really good."

Tired or not, Minnesota faced a Montreal team that likes to get up and down the ice, much like the Wild's next two foes, Dallas on Saturday and Chicago at United Center on Sunday.

"Yeah, they're going to be tough games," Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin said after practice on Friday. "Both teams are really good teams, both skilled. We have to be ready from the start in Dallas tomorrow."

Minnesota is 12-5-5 on the road and 7-3-2 against the Central, but the biggest number attached to the Wild right now might be their 15-1-2 record in their past 18 games.

"It's going to be a tough game inside the offensive zone to get quality opportunities," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said of the Wild on Friday. "But we're going to have to find a way to get inside. It's going to be tough to get the Grade-A (scoring chances), but we're going to have to fight for the second opportunities."

Ruff made practice optional on Friday, but Stars captain Jamie Benn and goaltender Kari Lehtonen were among those who participated.

Like Minnesota, Dallas (18-17-8) heads into this divisional tilt off a win, a 5-2 triumph against Detroit on Thursday that snapped the Red Wings' six-game winning streak in Dallas.

The Stars are 12-6-4 at home and 5-3-2 over their past 10 games, and have scored three or more goals in seven of their past nine games.

"Well, I think overall, getting some pieces back, I think that has made a difference," Ruff said of the Stars' recent offensive surge. "I think we've played better defensively, which kept the games close. Had the lead in a few of those games, which a few more chances come up then."

One player who has been a big part of that recent Dallas surge is young defenseman John Klingberg, who has put his early-season struggles behind him to notch five assists and nine points, including a goal against Detroit, over his past 11 games.

"I think a big key to creating offense is having your D involved," Ruff said. "You look at Esa (Lindell), (Klingberg), Jordie Benn, guys getting up and getting involved, Jamie Oleksiak, I think your offensive numbers go up when you see those guys involved."

The Wild and Stars split their first two meetings this season, with each team winning on home ice.

Even after a six-goal margin against the Canadiens, Minnesota knows it must play much better against the Stars if it is to leave Dallas with two points for just the sixth time in 33 trips there.

"We got good bounces, but I don't think we played our best game (against Montreal)," Brodin said. "(Saturday) we have to really start from the defensive zone, be really good from there and then we can play offense. I think that's the big key."



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