The Minnesota Wild, leaders of what is expected to become a defunct Western Conference at the end of the season, will put another winning streak on the line against the San Jose Sharks once again. Less than a month ago, the Wild had a five-game run stopped by the Sharks at HP Pavilion. A win over the Sharks tonight would give the Wild its third five-game winning streak of the season.
The Sharks lost for the third time in four games on Saturday, falling to the Florida Panthers, 5-3. Logan Couture scored twice for San Jose, while Jamie McGinn also scored. Thomas Greiss allowed five goals on 35 shots in the loss.
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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HP Pavilion is closing in on 20 years of existence, but it’s one of those rinks that has stood up to time. It still looks clean, has great sightlines and there’s a beautiful high-definition scoreboard above the ice. But the best feature of the Shark Tank is the one gimmick that’s visible – the massive shark head that is lowered to the ice for the Shark players to skate out of.
Close tabs are still being kept on the four players who switched between these two teams over the offseason. Considering Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi both have eight goals and have helped the Wild to the best point total in the NHL, the returns in Minnesota have been good.
In San Jose, where the Sharks are in ninth but have played five fewer games than the Wild, the trade has also been a positive. While the point totals for Brent Burns and Martin Havlat aren’t eye-popping (five goals, 14 assists between the two), they have seemed to mesh in well with their new surroundings. As Havlat showed in Minnesota, he generally starts playing his best hockey once the holidays start rolling into the picture. And Burns is a +7 on the year, which ranks second on the Sharks roster.
The last game between these two clubs featured a “homecoming” for Heatley and Setoguchi against their former teams. Tonight’s matchup features a true homecoming for Wellman, who grew up in nearby Brentwood, California. Tonight will be the first time that Wellman’s parents will get to see him play a professional hockey game, and they picked a good time. Playing on a line with Matt Cullen and Bouchard, he’s scored a goal in consecutive games, including a game-winner.
If there’s a team that has been a nemesis to the Wild, it’s this one that wears teal as a primary color. The Wild is 1-8-1 in the last 10 against San Jose, and the key in many of those games has been the second period. The Fish have outscored Minnesota 16-6 in the middle frame over that stretch.
When Bouchard is firing off backhands without looking and finding the top corner, there’s a good chance he’s found a rhythm. With his highlight reel goal on Sunday, Butch has now posted two goals and two helpers over the last four games.
It doesn’t look as if there will be any changes to the front lines tonight:
Niklas Backstrom took part in yesterday’s practice, but he is not expected to dress tonight with Matt Hackett serving as the backup. Setoguchi sat out yesterday’s practice due to maintenance, but he is expected to play tonight. Justin Falk (upper body) was placed on injured reserve on Saturday and did not travel with the team. Guillaume Latendresse (concussion) and Marek Zidlicky (concussion) are out indefinitely.
"The importance of those games was so high that every game they went out and knew they had to be at their best. They got easily another year of development there.”
- Mike Yeo on how last year’s Calder Cup playoff run helped the players who have come up from Houston this season
Havlat spent two seasons with the Wild and put up 116 points. Burns played for the Wild beginning in 2003-04 and left as the Wild’s all-time leading scorer among defensemen with 183. C Andrew Murray played four seasons of college hockey at Bemidji State. Injured C James Sheppard was the Wild’s first round pick in 2006.
The Wild has lost 10 total games this season, including overtime. No team has beaten Minnesota twice this season thus far.