Preview: Wild at Stars
The Dallas Stars already have qualified for the playoffs, but their first-round opponent still is to be determined as they host the Minnesota Wild on Saturday to close the curtain on the regular season. Dallas had a chance to secure the top wild-card seed in the Western Conference on Friday but lost at Chicago 6-1 and needs one point or any type of loss by Colorado to finish ahead of the Avalanche.
The top wild card plays the Central Division champion, a title that still is up for grabs between Nashville, Winnipeg and St. Louis, while the second wild card crosses over to play Pacific champion Calgary. Minnesota wraps a disappointing season in which it never recovered from a 1-6-3 stretch coming out of the All-Star break that moved it from third place to last in the Central. “As soon as that final buzzer sounds (on Saturday night), it’ll hit us that we won’t be playing again for a while,” Wild goaltender Devin Dubnyk told reporters. “We play to make the playoffs, so when we don’t do that, it’s going to be disappointing.” Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau on Feb. 14 guaranteed his club would make the postseason - "I can tell you right now, I'm not Joe Namath, but we're going to make the playoffs," he told reporters - an unfulfilled prophecy that ultimately could cost him his job.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, FS North (Minnesota), FS Southwest (Dallas)
ABOUT THE WILD (37-35-9): Zach Parise (team highs of 28 goals and 61 points) will not play Saturday (illness), according to Boudreau, after he was out of the lineup Thursday and scored twice on Tuesday in his first game after missing four (lower body). Nico Sturm made his NHL debut in Thursday's 3-0 loss to Boston, recording three shots and two blocked shots in 13 minutes, 20 seconds of ice time after the former Clarkson star was signed Monday as a free agent. Eric Staal (22 goals, 52 points) has been kept off the scoresheet in the last three games but already has wrapped up his 12th 20-goal campaign and is 26 points shy of 1,000.
ABOUT THE STARS (42-32-7): Ben Bishop is having a Vezina Trophy-type season with a league-leading .933 save percentage but remains day-to-day after missing his fourth straight game Friday with a lower-body injury. Anton Khudobin, who allowed two goals in each of the first three contests Bishop missed, was lit up Friday but could be back in net on Saturday if Bishop cannot go and coach Jim Montgomery elects not to give rookie Landon Bow his first career start. Tyler Seguin (club-most 31 goals, 78 points) notched an assist on Friday, giving him four goals and 13 points in his last nine games.
1. Minnesota has been shut out 10 times this season - tied for second-most in franchise history.
2. Dallas RW Alexander Radulov (29 goals, 71 points) notched an assist on Friday to extend his point streak to seven games (five goals, six assists).
3. The Wild are 20-for-20 on the penalty kill in their last eight games while the Stars are 8-for-18 on the power play in their past six.
PREDICTION: Stars 3, Wild 2