The Minnesota Wild limped into the Christmas break with a 1-3 road trip and having lost four of the past five games overall. The three days off for fruit cake, family and friends should have been a refreshing and rejuvenating change of pace for the Wild as they get back at it with a home game against the Dallas Stars.
Maybe they can rally together and get coach Bruce Boudreau a victory in his 800th game as an NHL head coach.
The game kicks off the post-holiday play, plus three consecutive games against divisional opponents. The Wild will face Nashville in a home-and-home series later this week.
The Wild (18-15-3) match up pretty evenly throughout their history against the former Minnesota team, the Stars (20-14-3). The Wild are 27-27-12 against them overall while putting up a 4-0-1 mark last season along with a seven-game point streak dating back nearly two years (Jan. 9, 2016). The Wild have points in nine of the past 10 games with the Stars in St. Paul.
On the injury front, forward Zach Parise, who’s been out all season after surgery, is headed to Iowa to play some games. Nino Niederreiter will miss Wednesday’s game but hopes to be back for practice on Thursday. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk will serve as the backup against Dallas, rather than Steve Michalek, who was sent back to Iowa before the holiday after backing up Alex Stalock.
Mikael Granlund, last year’s Wild points leader tallied seven against the Stars last season, while Mikko Koivu tallied six. Koivu leads his team with 33 points in 40 career games against the Stars. Eric Staal has four goals and four assists in his past eight games. He still leads the Wild in points with 31, six more than the second-place Jason Zucker.
However, offense has been a bit streaky lately, and the Wild were shut out 3-0 the last game.
Former Wild player Martin Hanzal (2016-17) has three goals and three assists in 25 games in a Stars sweater. Minneapolis native and Minnesota State Mankato player Tyler Pitlick has 13 points with the Stars in 35 games this season.
As for the rest of the Stars, linemates Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn lead the team with 32 points each. Seguin has 17 goals while Benn has 15. Defenseman John Klingberg has 27 assists to lead the team.
The Wild’s penalty kill still remains a true bright spot this season. The kill went a perfect 6 for 6 last game in Tampa and hasn’t allowed a goal in six of the past seven games (30 for 32). They lead the league with their 94.3 percent (50 for 53) penalty kill on home ice this season.
Perhaps the numbers are more impressive considering the Wild have been shorthanded a total of 142 times this season, which ranks second-most in the NHL. They’ve only received 109 power-play chances in return -- eighth-fewest in the NHL.
As for Boudreau’s coaching milestone -- or round number -- he’s 476-232-91 (.652) in his coaching career spanning 11 NHL seasons. He leads the active coaches in the league in point percentage.
Nino Niederreiter (lower body), 1 game
Devan Dubnyk (lower body), 6 games
Zach Parise (microdiscectomy surgery), 36 games
Total man games lost: 87