Wild-Stars Preview

The Associated Press

Two weeks ago, the Dallas Stars suffered a disheartening loss in Minnesota as the Wild set a team record with three goals in less than a minute.

A rematch at the American Airlines Center should give them a very good chance to avenge that defeat.

The Stars look to win their 15th straight home game over Minnesota on Saturday night in a matchup of teams competing for one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference.

In the first meeting of the season Jan. 21, Dallas (26-22-2) took a 2-1 advantage halfway through the second period on scores from Eric Nystrom and the first career goal of Philip Larsen. That lead quickly disappeared as Cal Clutterbuck, Chad Rau - making his NHL debut - and Kyle Brodziak scored in a 59-second span for the Wild.

Dany Heatley, who has a team-best 17 goals, added a third-period score for Minnesota, which won 5-2 to snap a four-game losing streak and send Dallas to a fifth consecutive defeat.

The Wild (25-19-7), in eighth place in the West and three points ahead of the Stars, have won the last two meetings, but victories in Dallas have been impossible to come by of late.

The Stars have outscored Minnesota 56-28 during their 14-game run at home in the series. It's Dallas' longest home winning streak against an opponent in franchise history and Minnesota's longest road skid to a team.

It's also the longest active home winning streak by one team over another and tied for 11th longest in NHL history.

Dallas has relied on several players for scoring and defense during this run, as six goaltenders have earned victories.

Kari Lehtonen was between the pipes for both meetings in Dallas last season, stopping 42 of 45 shots, and is expected to get the call again. He struggled in Minnesota last month, however, surrendering four goals on 19 shots in less than two periods of work.

Jamie Benn, who leads the Stars with 31 assists and 46 points, has two goals and an assist in his four career home games against the Wild. Brenden Morrow has four goals and five assists in his last eight home contests in the series.

Although Dallas has dominated the Wild at home, it hasn't enjoyed much luck against anyone else lately.

The Stars looked particularly sluggish in a 5-2 loss to San Jose on Thursday, getting outshot 37-21 and winning 23 percent of the faceoffs in losing for the sixth time in eight games. The Sharks' 77 percent faceoff advantage was the best by any team since the lockout.

"There were a lot of frustrating things,'' said Steve Ott, who was credited with a goal after San Jose defenseman Dan Boyle put it into his own net. "We didn't get the result we wanted and collectively there were a lot of little breakdowns.''

One bright spot for the Stars was Benn, who scored for the second straight game after missing five because of an appendectomy. He has six goals and eight assists in his last nine contests.

The Wild arrive in Dallas after a 1-0 win over Colorado on Thursday. Niklas Backstrom, 0-4-2 with a 4.01 goals-against average in six career starts in Dallas, had 37 saves and Greg Zanon scored on Minnesota's first shot.

It was an encouraging effort by the Wild, who suffered a 5-4 loss to Nashville on Tuesday, a game they led 4-1 with 10:38 left.

"It was an outstanding effort, coming off last game,'' coach Mike Yeo said. "Emotionally, it was not easy, but to see our guys respond the way they did says a lot about our group.''

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