SHARKS (13-10-6…32 pts) at WILD (17-10-2…36 pts)
When: Saturday (3/23) 11am PDT, 1pm CDT
Where: Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota
Television: CSN California (NoCal); Fox Sports North & Fox Sports Wisconsin
Radio: Sharks Radio Network (K-FOX 98.5FM San Jose/102.1 San Francisco); KFAN-FM 100.3FM Minneapolis-St.Paul
Entering their 30th game of this lockout abbreviated schedule, the San Jose Sharks visit the Minnesota Wild in the fourth game of a five game road trip. The Sharks snapped a two game losing skid Wednesday Night in Edmonton with a rare come from behind victory, besting the Oilers 4-3 by winning the shootout. This is also the first of three meetings between the Sharks and the Wild with this game their only visit to the Twin Cities this year baring a playoff match up. The Sharks trials and tribulations have been well documented as they currently sit in the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference Standings. The Sharks of late have at least been able to rely on the hot hand of Logan Couture who has scored 14 goals this season, including twice against the Oilers. Brent Burns play has picked up of late, Tommy Wingles and Matt Irwin have scored a pair of key goals each. Antti Niemi has held his own for the most part this season however has started to struggle a little bit as of late.
Meanwhile the Minnesota Wild have gone the opposite direction of the Sharks and have posted an impressive 7-3-0 mark over their last 10 games. The Wild are currently sitting atop the Northwest Division with 36 points in the standings and are also holding the #3 seeding spot in the Western Conference Standings. The Wild have over the last two years have become the “Minnesota Former Sharks” as Devin Setoguchi, Dany Heatley have been quite instrumental in the Wild’s rise to near the top of the Western Conference. Charlie Coyle, a former Sharks top draft pick (who came over to the Wild along with Setoguchi in the Brent Burns trade two summers ago) has been very impressive. Another former Shark Torrey Mitchel has found a home with the Wild as well. However the Wild are not just a club with former Sharks on their bench, they also have Zach Parise and Ryan Suter as the big ticket names that came to the “Land of Ten Thousand Lakes” in a major free agent moves last off season. Parise was known largely for his career as one of the leaders on the New Jersey Devils prior to coming back to his hometown and the Wild. Suter was one of the go to guys for the Nashville Predators prior to his free agency signing this past July.
For More On Saturday Morning/Afternoons match-up, here’s Dan Rosen – NHL.com Senior Writer with his takes on the Sharks vs Wild match-up …***
Last 10: San Jose 4-4-2; Minnesota 7-3-0
Season series: This is the first of three meetings between the clubs this season.
Big story: The Wild are red-hot and hoping to stay that way. They have won four in a row and six of their last seven, with the lone loss coming against the Anaheim Ducks. The Sharks will be trying to win their second straight game for only the second time since they started the season 7-0.
Sharks: They’re coming off a 4-3 shootout win over the Edmonton Oilers. It was one of those gutsy, come-from-behind wins that could spark a team into a hot streak.
The Sharks were down 3-1 early in the third period, but Logan Couture and Tommy Wingels scored less than three minutes apart to tie the game. It stayed that way until the shootout, when Dan Boyle won it for San Jose in the third round.
Couture scored two goals in the game and is now up to 14 for the season.
The Sharks are eighth in the Western Conference heading into the games Friday night.
“To win the way that we were able to and come back with two goals in the third, hopefully that can get us going in the right direction,” Couture said. “We needed something. We need all the points we can get right now. We need to find ways to get points every single night right now.”
Wild: After a slow start to the season, the Wild have things going in the right direction. They have won four in a row, including a 4-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday.
They have scored 18 goals during the four-game winning streak. By comparison, the Wild scored only 23 goals over 12 games in February.
“We expect to win now,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “Early on we had that doubt. Now we expect to win and we’re holding each other accountable. We know what we’re capable of. We know what each guy’s capable of. Now we’re expecting it and it really shows.”
Niklas Backstrom also deserves credit for the turnaround in Minnesota. He’s made 71 saves over the last two games and has his goals-against average down to 2.32, his save percentage up to .917.
The Wild are first in the Northwest Division.
Who’s hot: Couture scored twice against the Oilers for his second two-goal game in the past four games. … Wild forward Devin Setoguchi scored twice against the Red Wings, giving him six goals during a five-game point-scoring streak.
Injury report: San Jose goalie Thomas Greiss (neck) and forward Tim Kennedy (undisclosed) are on injured reserve. Forward Ryane Clowe has been battling a shoulder injury. … Minnesota forward Mike Rupp (lower body) and defenseman Tom Gilbert (undisclosed) are day-to-day. Goalie Josh Harding (illness) is out.
**-Source: NHL.com http://www.nhl.com/ice/preview.htm?id=2012020457&navid=sb:preview
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