The Minnesota Wild have delivered a forceful and punishing performance to take the lead in their first-round NHL playoff series with the Dallas Stars.
The Wild are wincing a little bit themselves, though.
Joel Eriksson Ek, their best center, could be sidelined again after he missed the first two games and had his Game 3 return cut short by an apparent aggravation of the leg injury he originally suffered more than two weeks ago on a blocked shot.
Wild coach Dean Evason had no update on Eriksson Ek’s status after practice Saturday. Game 4 is Sunday in Minnesota.
“He was obviously in a lot of pain, and knowing he can’t go it’s something serious,” forward Mats Zuccarello said. “So we hope it’s nothing too bad, but we’ll see. The guy’s a leader on this team, and we feel for him.”
The Stars, of course, are missing center Joe Pavelski after the hard hit he took from Wild defenseman Matt Dumba in Game 1. The rough stuff and the tough talk has kept up from both sides and figures to continue through the end of the Central Division series.
Last year, the Wild had a 2-1 lead on St. Louis before dropping three straight games to the Blues.
“Things weren’t good last year so we’ve talked a lot about that that we have to learn from those situations,” Evason said. “Time will tell, but hopefully we have.”
STARS AT WILD, Minnesota leads 2-1 (6:30 p.m. EDT, TBS).
The Stars have scored only four 5-on-5 goals in three games, with the pressure mounting on Jason Robertson and friends to generate more of an attack.
“It gets a lot tougher to create offense 5-on-5 in the playoffs, and you have to be willing to do some things that aren’t comfortable in order to do that and get to places on the ice that aren’t comfortable in order to do that,” Stars coach Peter DeBoer said, spreading the blame well beyond Robertson. “That’s a learning curve for young scorers coming into the league. He went through the playoffs last year and dealt with that. Every year, you hope you learn something and can be a little bit better. But he wasn’t alone on that boat. We had way too many passengers offensively up front.”
HURRICANES AT ISLANDERS, Carolina leads 2-1 (1 p.m. EDT, TNT).
The Hurricanes and Islanders have dished out more than their share of pain to the other, and the Hurricanes might be hurting the most — despite their edge in the series.
The club confirmed on Saturday that forward Teuvo Teravainen had surgery on Thursday on his broken left hand and would be out indefinitely, an injury that occurred in Game 2 when he was slashed by the Islanders’ Jean-Gabriel Pageau. There wasn’t much news in the announcement, perhaps just a simple reminder from the Hurricanes that they were still upset about the way they lost a key player.
The Hurricanes are also without forwards Max Pacioretty and Andrei Svechnikov to major injuries. The absences sure haven’t helped the Carolina power play, which is just 3 for 14 in the series.
“Everybody’s trying to do the right things,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “I think we try a little too hard sometimes in that area because we know how important it is.”
BRUINS AT PANTHERS, Boston leads 2-1 (3:30 p.m. EDT, TNT)
The best team in hockey with the league-record 65 wins during the regular season looked like the best team in hockey again in Game 3, when Boston leaped to a 4-0 lead and reclaimed control of the series.
“Adversity is good,” Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark said.
Evidently. Boston lost the home-ice edge by falling 6-3 in Game 2, before roaring back on Friday.
“We’ve got to keep it going,” Ullmark said. “We’ve got to win four in every series. Now we’re halfway there in the first one, and we’re planning on getting that third one now on Sunday.”
The Panthers got Sergei Bobrovsky some work in the net in the third period of Game 3, though coach Paul Maurice stressed that switching goalies wasn’t an indictment of starter Alex Lyon.
The Bruins could get center David Krejci back for Game 4, after he missed Friday with an upper-body injury. Florida will also make a game-time decision on defenseman Aaron Ekblad, whose Game 3 was cut short after a collision with Boston’s Charlie McAvoy.
KINGS AT OILERS, Los Angeles leads 2-1 (8 p.m. EDT, TBS).
Joonas Korpisalo has a .931 save percentage over the first three games for the Kings and a 2.53 goals against average after making 108 saves, the most by any goalie in the playoffs. Only Jonathan Quick has made more saves for the Kings in the first three games of the postseason when he stopped 111 shots to start their 2012 run to the Stanley Cup title.
The Oilers have yet to get a goal in the same game by both stars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. McDavid, the NHL scoring leader, has yet to score on nine even-strength shots. He had two power-play goals in the Game 3 loss on Friday.
Korpisalo was acquired from Columbus with defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov last month for Quick and two draft picks.
“He’s been unreal,” Kings right wing Adrian Kempe said. “He’s probably our best player out there.”
AP Sports Writers Vin A. Cherwoo, Joe Reedy and Tim Reynolds contributed.
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