Wild-Stars Preview

The Associated Press

The Minnesota Wild have picked up the pace following a brutal two week stretch. Keeping things going, however, could prove difficult with a visit to Dallas up next.

The Wild try to avoid a 16th consecutive road loss to the Stars, who return home Friday night following an impressive two-game trip.

Minnesota (27-24-9), which was limited to nine goals during an 0-5-2 skid Feb. 4-18 that began with a 2-1 shootout loss at Dallas seems to have since turned a corner. Four days after beating Boston 2-0, the Wild pulled out a 3-2 shootout victory at Florida on Thursday.

"Both times we got pucks to the net, we had a guy standing there for the rebound and it paid off," said Kyle Brodziak, who scored his 16th goal. "It's a good recipe that we've got to stick with."

Minnesota sits on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture, but remains just three points behind the eighth-place Stars (31-26-4).

"It was nice to get that extra point," said center Matt Cullen, who also scored before tallying the game-winner in the shootout. "We battled really hard. Every point is at a premium right now. That was so important for us to get both points."

While things have gone the Wild's way of late, another victory could be hard to come by. Since a 3-2 overtime win March 21, 2003, Minnesota has been outscored 56-29 during an 0-10-5 skid in Dallas.

The Stars carry plenty of momentum into Friday's matchup after picking up back-to-back road wins. Kari Lehtonen turned away 31 shots in Tuesday's 3-0 win at Montreal before giving way to Richard Bachman, who made 26 saves Thursday to defeat Chicago 3-1.

The Stars trailed 1-0 heading into the third period but Loui Eriksson, Steve Ott and Michael Ryder all scored over the final 20 minutes.

"We're all looking for that run at this time of the year, but the reality is it's pretty tough," coach Glen Gulutzan told the team's official website. "But picking up two points, especially in a building like this, is good. Now we have to win at home."

Given his home efforts versus Minnesota, Lehtonen could be back in goal. Lehtonen made 33 saves when the teams met earlier this month and is 3-0-0 with one shutout and a 1.27 goals-against average in three career home matchups in this series.

Niklas Backstrom, meanwhile, is 0-4-3 with a 3.46 GAA lifetime at American Airlines Center - his highest career mark in any opposing arena he's visited more than four times.

After making a career-high 48 saves versus the Bruins, Backstrom improved to 3-3-2 with a 1.83 GAA this month behind a 41-save display against the Panthers.

Despite his outstanding play of late, Backstrom could be spelled by rookie Matt Hackett. Hackett was recalled from AHL Houston on Wednesday after backup Josh Harding suffered an injury during practice. Hackett has gone 2-0-0 with an 0.85 GAA in three games - one start - this season.

Stars center Mike Ribeiro has notched three goals and nine assists during a seven-game home point streak versus the Wild. Eriksson, meanwhile, has notched 20 points over his last 15 overall meetings in this series.

Wild captain Mikko Koivu missed his third consecutive game Thursday with an undisclosed injury, leaving his status for this one uncertain.

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