NHL Rink Wrap: Stars tame Wild; Season pause coming soon

NHL Rink Wrap: Stars tame Wild; Season pause coming soon
Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images

Top player from Wild – Stars

Miro Heiskanen, Stars

It’s not easy to pick out a top player from Wild – Stars. Despite the two teams combining for 11 goals, the offense was split pretty evenly. If you went by sheer points alone, you might go with Wild star Kirill Kaprizov (one goal, two assists).

Let’s roll with Miro Heiskanen, though, as he made his usual big impact and didn’t need an empty-netter to reach two points (1G, 1A) on the night.

Actually, maybe such nights haven’t been typical of Heiskanen lately. He carried an unusual seven-game pointless streak into that Wild – Stars game. Goals aren’t as big of a deal for defensemen, but it’s noteworthy that this was Heiskanen’s first since Nov. 10.

Even with that slump in mind, Heiskanen’s still having a strong season, with 18 points in 28 games. If the NHL can approach an 82-game season, Heiskanen has a strong chance to exceed his current career-high of 35 points from 2019-20.

Highlights from Wild – Stars

Watch highlights from the only NHL game on Monday, as the Stars beat the Wild handily. More on that below.

NHL takeaways from Monday

Tuesday NHL games may happen, but then pause will go from Dec. 22 – 26

Following the lone Monday NHL game, it looked like there still will be two games on Tuesday (Capitals – Flyers, Lightning – Golden Knights). If this wave of COVID postponements and disruptions teach us anything, it’s that it’s wise to keep an eye out for additional changes for the NHL.

We already know that the NHL will pause its schedule on Wednesday (Dec. 22) at the latest, while the holiday break is planned to remain mostly unchanged (through Dec. 26).

If nothing else changes, there will be those two Tuesday NHL games, and then the season would resume on Monday, Dec. 27. Again, not a whole lot has gone as planned lately, though; PHT will provide updates if anything changes.

Read more about the NHL season pause here.

Wild can’t break losing streak vs. home-hearty Stars; Central Division wide open?

Suddenly, the race for the Central Division title looks wide open.

OK, maybe the Wild look at the Predators, Blues, and perhaps the Avalanche* as cars that are creeping up in their rearview mirror, more than something more immediate. But the point is that, with the Predators on fire and the Blues hanging in there, the Wild don’t have much of an edge for the Central Division title.

[The Predators roared up the Power Rankings, not just the Central Division standings]

If there’s any validity to the thought that COVID may force the NHL to squeeze the schedule in ways that force division play akin to last season, then the Central could swing on something like the Stars being so dangerous at home.

So far this season, the Stars don’t look like a playoff team on the road; they’re 4-9-1 away from Dallas. After crunching the Wild on Monday, the Stars are now 11-3-1 at home.

It’s not like the Stars barely squeezed by the Wild on Monday, either. Instead, it was a brawny display of power. Honestly, the Stars remain such a strange, puzzling team.

* – On one hand, the Avalanche are heating up, and they’re the Avalanche. On the other hand, thanks to fewer games played and fewer standings points, the Wild may view the Predators and Blues as more immediate Central Division threats.

Tuesday’s big story

Will there be NHL games on Tuesday?

During these COVID disruptions, PHT’s done our college best to focus on potential on-ice stories of a given day. (We even lucked upon Stars – Wild before it was clear that would be Monday’s lone NHL game.)

But … really, it was odd to observe Stars – Wild on Monday, and it may feel weird if the two NHL games also take place on Tuesday. Borderline surreal.

That said, if you have to force games through a small window, at least the two Tuesday NHL games could be good ones. While Capitals – Flyers is a mismatch, Philly’s shown some life lately. Meanwhile, Lightning – Golden Knights can at times feel like a Stanley Cup Final preview, and that won’t feel too outrageous with both teams looking strong.

So, those Tuesday NHL games could be fun, if they happen. That is not a small if.

Wild – Stars final score

Stars 7, Wild 4

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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