At least four players in tonight’s game between the Minnesota Wild and the San Jose Sharks have been thinking about this game since July. The Wild’s Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi will get their first shots at the team they helped reach the conference finals last year. The Sharks’ Brent Burns and Marty Havlat will get their first crack at the team that Burns grew up with, and Havlat spent two years with.
While both deals were surprising, they invigorated the Wild fan base that was looking for some added scoring punch and some star power. San Jose was trying to find the missing pieces that would get them over the conference final hump.
Heatley helped the Wild to a fifth straight win on Tuesday night, scoring a power play goal. Darroll Powe and Guillaume Latendresse also lit the lamp, but it was Niklas Backstrom who starred in a 3-0 shutout victory over the Calgary Flames. Backstrom turned away 41 Calgary shots after sitting out the previous four games.
The Sharks landed a big win on Tuesday as well, beating the Los Angeles Kings, 4-2. Patrick Marleau led the way with a goal and two assists in the second period. Dan Boyle and Joe Thornton also put up a goal and an assist while Joe Pavelski added two helpers. Antti Niemi posted 29 saves in the win.
Wild at Sharks will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North with a start time at 9:30 PM. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com.
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If you’ll recall from last year, the Minnesota Wild players wore some pretty sweet camouflage jerseys during warmups before a game against the Edmonton Oilers. In observance of Veterans Day tomorrow, the Sharks are doing something similar. Sharks players wore the camo jerseys during Saturday’s morning skate. They were then autographed and will be available for bid tonight at the North Entrance East Side stairs.
The Sharks gave up some serious firepower to get Burns and Havlat, but that’s mostly because there was an abundance of it already in the lineup. Thornton and Marleau are still there and putting up numbers, but other players appeared primed to step up and they are. Pavelski leads the team and ranks 10th in the NHL with 17 points. Dynamic forwards Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe are also filling the net with 10 goals between the two of them.
Josh Harding is hot. He’s won his last four starts and hasn’t given up more than one goal in any of them. Niklas Backstrom is hot, too. He pitched a shutout on Tuesday and was unbelievable from the opening flurry to the end of the game. Unfortunately, the Wild can’t go with two goaltenders, but the general rule of thumb is that if a goalie posts a shutout, you let him attempt to keep the streak going.
There will be more than four players in tonight’s game, but the bulk of the conversation will likely be focused on them. Thus far, this is looking like a good trade for both teams.
Heatley leads the Wild in scoring with 10 points, including five goals that have played huge roles in Wild wins. Setoguchi owns four goals and four assists, and he’s brought an added dimension of speed to the top lines of Minnesota.
Havlat missed the first four games, but has averaged nearly a point per game since his return, tallying one goal and seven assists in nine games. Burns leads Shark defensemen with three goals and has already signed a six-year extension to stay in San Jose.
Setoguchi was drafted by the Sharks and came up through the system. He signed a three-year extension with San Jose just days before the June Draft, when he was traded to Minnesota. Setoguchi is an emotional player, and you can be sure he’s going to have some extra giddy-up tonight.
Cal Clutterbuck sat out Tuesday’s game with an upper body injury. His status improved yesterday, but he is still considered questionable:
You can’t take a goalie out after a shutout, and you can’t switch up a defensive crew that has helped hold teams to a goal or less in each of the last five:
Backstrom will get back in there against a team he is 4-9-3 against with a 3.03 goals against average and a .903 save percentage.
If Clutterbuck can go, it looks as though Warren Peters would come out.
Mike Lundin (back) and Clayton Stoner (hand) both made the trip with the team, but neither is expected to play tonight. Greg Zanon (groin) is out. Clutterbuck (upper body) is questionable.
"I hope it serves as a motivator.”
-- Mike Yeo on Setoguchi and Heatley facing the team that traded them in the offseason
RW Havlat spent two seasons with the Wild and posted 116 points (40-76=116) in 115 games. D Burns is the Wild’s all time scoring leader among defensemen with 183 points over seven seasons. Injured C James Sheppard was also a first round pick of the Wild in 2006. D Justin Braun is a native of Vadnais Heights and played his high school hockey for White Bear Lake.
The Wild ranks tied for fourth in the NHL with 227 blocked shots. Nick Schultz leads the team with 30, but Nate Prosser is already making a charge, having gotten in the way of 14 shots in five contests.