The Dallas Stars come into their Monday evening matchup with the Minnesota Wild holding onto the eighth spot in the Western Conference by the slimmest of margins, but that didn't stop general manager Joe Nieuwendyk from looking towards the franchise's future.
The Stars can win three straight for only the second time this season, but will do so without Brenden Morrow after dealing the forward on Sunday. That leaves Dallas without its former captain in a matchup with the red-hot Wild, winners of five straight but searching for their first victory in Dallas in 10 years.
Just one day after a 5-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche, the Stars dealt the 34-year-old Morrow to the Pittsburgh Penguins along with a 2013 third- round pick for defensive prospect Joe Morrow and a fifth-round selection in the upcoming draft.
Brenden Morrow, who had to waive his no-trade clause to facilitate the deal, posted just six goals and 11 points in 29 games for the Stars this season, his 13th with the franchise, and had served as the team's captain since 2006.
In dealing the veteran, the Stars got a 20-year-old prospect who was a first- round pick by the Penguins in 2011. Joe Morrow has yet to play in the NHL, but is viewed as a potential top-four defenseman down the road.
"We had a great opportunity to acquire a young, top-end defenseman in Joe Morrow and we are delighted to add him to our organization," said Nieuwendyk. "We identified Joe as an outstanding prospect and a target for acquisition if ever available, and we feel he can solidify our blue line for the foreseeable future."
Joe Morrow is expected to skate with the Stars on Tuesday and Wednesday before the club decides if he will play on Friday in a rematch with the Wild or be sent to the AHL, according to Nieuwendyk. The GM added that the team is in no hurry to name a new captain.
Brenden Morrow's final game with the Stars, who drafted him in the first round in 1997, saw him post his sixth straight game without a point. However, Derek Roy, Eric Nystrom and Jaromir Jagr all had a goal and an assist versus the Avalanche, while Cody Eakin and Jordie Benn also scored, with Benn netting the first goal of his career.
"We've been trying to work on playing 60 minutes and there were times that they came on strong, but we stood with it," Eakin said.
Jamie Benn recorded three assists and Kari Lehtonen posted 33 saves for the Stars, who have a one-point lead over three teams for eighth place in the Western Conference. They'll look to maintain that edge by recording their longest winning streak since a season-high four straight victories from Feb. 4-12.
While Dallas looked to get younger with the trade of Brenden Morrow, the 41- year-old Jagr continues to contribute. He leads the club with 13 goals and 24 points and logged the 999th assist of his career in Saturday's win.
Jagr's effort helped the Stars win the opener of a season-high five-game homestand that continues on Friday versus the Wild. Minnesota, though, will host the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday before returning to Dallas.
The Wild hope to have their win streak intact in that rematch, but they'll need to find a way to win this game first. That is easier said than done given that Minnesota has lost 16 straight in Dallas since an overtime win on March 21, 2003.
That 16-game slide is tied for the longest active road losing streak by any one team against another in the NHL, with the Calgary Flames having also lost 16 in a row at the Anaheim Ducks.
Minnesota did capture a 1-0 home win over Dallas on Jan. 20 and comes into this meeting having won a season-high five straight, all by two-goal margins. That has the Wild two points behind the Vancouver Canucks for first place in the Northwest Division with two games in hand.
The Wild stayed hot with Saturday's 2-0 win over the San Jose Sharks. Niklas Backstrom made 33 saves, 19 in the third period, for his first shutout of the season, while Zach Parise and Jared Spurgeon had the goals.
Backstrom, who has 27 career shutouts, has started 14 of the Wild's past 15 games and is 13-3-1 with a 1.98 goals against average and .929 save percentage over his last 17.
"I feel good. I think the whole team feels good," Backstrom said. "It's the whole unit. It helps so much when you have everyone playing the same way."
Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter added a pair of helpers apiece for the Wild, who are on their longest winning streak since taking seven in a row from Nov. 28- Dec. 10 of last season.
Suter has 15 assists and 17 points over his last 13 games.