Only one game left on NHL schedule as Wild take on Stars

After putting together an eight-game winning streak that was the third-longest in team history, the Minnesota Wild seek their first victory in more than 10 days when they visit the Dallas Stars on Monday night.

The Wild, who have a one-point lead in the Central Division, have gone 0-2-1 in their past three games, including a 3-2 shootout loss to the visiting Buffalo Sabres on Thursday. Minnesota’s scheduled game against Florida on Saturday was postponed when the league shut down the Panthers because of a COVID-19 outbreak.

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Wild looking to get back on track

The extra time off was welcomed by Wild coach Dean Evason, who felt his team could use some rare practice time following the surprising home defeat to the Sabres.

“We probably deserved worse,” Evason said. “Yeah, we weren’t good. We weren’t good from the start. We weren’t good in the middle. We weren’t good in the end. … All of us, we just weren’t very good.

“We talked before, maybe we needed some practice. Our pace was just terrible. Terrible. (The Sabres) had pace. They played hard. Credit to them for sure. But we didn’t have anything. … That certainly didn’t look like our hockey club, right?”

The Wild had a full practice session on Friday and another practice on Sunday before departing for Dallas. Captain Jared Spurgeon will miss the game due to a lower-body injury that Evason said doesn’t need surgery while forward Jordan Greenway is questionable, also with a lower-body injury.

“I refuse to believe that we took Buffalo lightly,” Evason said. “I have too much respect for the group in the room that we’d do that. I think we had a really off night, and that is not our hockey club. I think they know that, and we’ll be better going forward.”

Dallas coming off emotional win

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Dec 18, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Stars center Tanner Kero (64) is carted off the ice during the first period against the Chicago Blackhawks at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas comes in off an emotional 4-3 overtime victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday. The victory snapped a five-game losing streak for the Stars, the team’s longest since 2014.

The contest was paused for over 10 minutes at the 3:02 mark of the first period when Stars forward Tanner Kero had to be stretchered off after getting knocked unconscious following a blindside hit along the boards by Brett Connolly, who was suspended for four games for an interference infraction.

Dallas’ Joe Pavelski scored twice on the ensuing power play and also had two assists, including one on John Klingberg’s game-winning goal in OT.

Watching Hero get taken off the ice on a stretcher brought back some painful memories for Pavelski, who sustained a similar type of injury in a 2019 playoff series against the Vegas Golden Knights after getting cross-checked by Cody Eakin on a faceoff.

“It’s terrible. I’ve been there before,” Pavelski, fighting back tears, said after Saturday’s game. “My teammates rallied around me that night. It flashes back there. … We’ve heard he’s doing all right. That win is definitely for him. We just say our prayers for a speedy recovery. It sucks.

“It was a big win. We’ve got to keep going, though. We’ve got a ways to go.”

Monday’s game is the second of four meetings between the Wild and Stars this season. The Wild won the first matchup 7-2 on Nov. 18 in Saint Paul, Minn.

–Field Level Media