SHARKS (32-21-7) at WILD (27-25-9)
TV: CSN-California (HD), FS-North (HD), FS-Wisconsin (HD)
LAST 10: San Jose 6-3-1; Minnesota 2-6-2
Season Series: This is the fourth and final meeting this season, with Minnesota holding a 2-1 edge. In the other meeting at Xcel Energy Center on Jan. 10, Minnesota outlasted San Jose 5-4 in a shootout.
Big Story: The long and winding road ends in St. Paul, as the Sharks come to the Xcel Energy Center in the final game of a nine-game trip that has seen San Jose fall out of first place in the Pacific Division. The Sharks will face a Wild team desperate for points after a 4-1 loss at Dallas on Friday dropped their five points behind the eighth-place Stars.
Sharks: A meeting to discuss eliminating defensive mistakes didn't have much effect on the Sharks against Nashville. They allowed two goals in the first 3:23 and played catch-up all night in a 6-2 loss that dropped them to 2-5-1 entering the finale of their nine-game trip.
The loss dropped the Sharks out of first place in the Pacific Division, but coach Todd McLellan said he's more concerned about getting his team back on track.
"You play hard the rest of the night and expend a lot of energy when you know you have to play the next night, but the game's over four minutes in," he said. "I've said, this all along: If we're going to give up four or five a night and think we're winning, we're dreaming. We have to keep pounding and pounding and pounding that into their heads until they absolutely believe it."
Wild: The lineup that takes the ice against the Sharks will have some major changes from the one that lost 4-1 at Dallas on Friday. During that game, the Wild send unhappy defenseman Marek Zidlicky to New Jersey for a package of players and picks that included defenseman Kurtis Foster and forwards Nick Palmieri and Stephane Veilleux.
But coach Mike Yeo wouldn't blame the trade for the loss to Dallas, a game in which the Wild was solidly outplayed.
"I don't think you can blame this game on that trade," Yeo said "I guess it depends on what the players want to allow it to do. Maybe it can excite you, maybe it can motivate you, maybe you can use it as an excuse. I don't know. I don't think that had anything to do with the way we played the game tonight or the result."
Who's Hot: San Jose's Patrick Marleau had a goal and an assist on Saturday; he's scored three of San Jose's last four goals and set up the other one. … Ex-Shark Dany Heatley has four assists in Minnesota's last three games.
Injury Report: San Jose is still without defenseman Douglas Murray (fractured Adam's apple) and forward Martin Havlat (hamstring surgery). … Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu missed his fourth straight game Friday with an undisclosed injury. Backup goalie Josh Harding is sidelined with a lower-body injury. Carson McMillan (lower body), Mike Lundin (lower body), Jarod Palmer (concussion), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion) and Guillaume Latendresse (concussion) are also out.
Stat Pack: Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi is 4-1-1 with a 1.98 goals-against average in six career starts against the Wild. But he's also been pulled from two games this week and surrendered three goals on seven shots before being lifted in Nashville. … The Wild figure to surpass the team record for players used in a season -- they're at 39, one short of the 40 who wore a Minnesota jersey in 2009-10, and figure to dress at least two of the three newcomers.
Puck Drop: The Sharks have been the presumed winner of the Pacific Division for most of the season, but they'll take the ice on Sunday two points behind the Phoenix Coyotes, who are 10-0-1 in their last 11 games and have won five in a row.
Captain Joe Thornton, for one, isn't happy about the slump.
"It wasn't a good effort," he said. "We have to find a way to come together. We're in the seven spot (in the Western Conference) now, and it's unacceptable."