What a difference a year can make. Last season, the Wild won 13 games on the road. This year, Minnesota has already matched that total and can surpass it tonight in just its 24th contest away from Xcel Energy Center. The Wild is red-hot on the road, going 9-2-1 in its last 12 away games. It seemed like a tough task, going on a four-game, nine-day road trip before the All-Star Break, but the Wild has handled it like most of its away games this season: in winning fashion.
As much as we'd love to dwell on the fact that the Wild has won three straight games - all against Northwest Division rivals, no less - anyone inside the locker room will tell you the road trip is in fact just half over. The Wild now faces the task of winning against a team it is tied with in the standings, with the victor possibly getting to say it has fought its way back into playoff position (both Chicago and Colorado, one point above the Wild and Sharks in the standings, play today).
The Wild tied a franchise record for largest margin of victory with a 6-0 win over the Flames Wednesday in Calgary. Six Wild players registered multi-point games, and multiple players set career highs in the game. Martin Havlat led the Wild with three points (2-1=3), including his 200th NHL goal, while Cal Clutterbuck tallied two points (1-1=2) and set a new career high with his 14th goal of the season. Niklas Backstrom returned to the starting spot and made 37 saves for his second shutout on the year.
San Jose won its third straight game Thursday with a 2-1 shootout win in Vancouver. Rookie sensation Logan Couture got the lone regulation goal for the Sharks before Wisconsin native Joe Pavelski put the shootout winner past Roberto Luongo. Goalie Antti Niemi made 36 saves before stopping all three Vancouver attempts in the shootout.
Wild at Sharks will be broadcast locally in high definition on FS North at 9:30 p.m. CT. The game can be heard on WCCO 830 AM, or online at Wild.com.
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Anybody can buy a ticket to go watch a hockey game, but how about getting to see the action of a morning skate? You can do just that Saturday morning and help the environment as part of the Sims Recycling Solutions/HP Electronics Recycling Event. Bring an electronic item down to HP Pavilion to be recycled and join a private viewing of the Sharks morning skate at 10:30. If you recycle at least one item, you also have the chance to win Sharks raffle prizes.
The Sharks have been one of the NHL's best regular-season teams in recent memory, but San Jose has struggled this year. Instead of charging towards another Presidents' Trophy, the Sharks are just trying to get back into playoff contention. San Jose is currently tied with Minnesota at 53 points and just out of the playoff picture. The Sharks will look to their leaders to get the team back in the top eight, including Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley, who both have 43 points on the season to lead San Jose.
After tallying two assists in the Wild win Wednesday, Andrew Brunette now has a season-high, four-game point streak (3-2=5) and has nine points (5-4=9) in his last nine games, including two multi-point games. Bruno has points in three straight games against the Sharks (1-2=3) and will be looking to earn his first five-game point streak since a seven-game stretch to open the 2009-10 season.
It's one thing to work hard and it's an entirely different thing to see your hard work paying off. Both the Wild and Sharks have battled to win three straight after a string of losses. Now, the teams tied in ninth in the Western Conference will fight for the right to possibly be in playoff position by the time the game ends.
Minnesota has taken both contests against San Jose this season, but those contests were in the friendly confines of Xcel Energy Center. The Wild is looking to take three straight wins against San Jose since taking four straight 3/9/04-2/2/06. The Wild is 4-10-3 in its last 17 games against the Sharks with a 1-5-1 record in San Jose.
Minnesota has outscored its opponents 14-1 during its current three-game winning streak, and much of that offensive success has been seen from the drop of the puck. The Wild's past two wins have come with the help of a quick two-goal lead early in the first period that the Oilers and Flames weren't able to recover from. Minnesota has now outscored its opponents 11-2 in the first period of its last nine road games, going 7-1-1 in that stretch. The Wild is 20-2-4 when scoring the game's first goal and 19-2-2 when it scores at least three goals this season.
Minnesota's offense has exploded since Todd Richards tinkered with the lines early in the new year and, as the old adage goes, if it ain't broke...
"It's a credit to the guys, it really is. It's not easy to play on the road. We've played in some tough buildings under some tough conditions and found ways to win games."
-- Todd Richards on the Wild matching its 13 total road wins from last season in just 23 road games this year.
San Jose Head Coach Todd McLellan coached the Wild’s prospects in Cleveland (2000-01) and Houston (2001-05)…Matt Shaw served as the Wild’s Video Coach (2007-09) before joining the Sharks as an Assistant Coach.
The Wild has registered a power-play goal in each of its past six games vs. San Jose.