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At the Rink: Wild at Sharks

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- Center Joe Thornton and captain Joe Pavelski will skate on different lines for the first time this season when the San Jose Sharks, riding a five-game winless streak, face the Minnesota Wild at SAP Center on Saturday.

Pavelski will skate on a line with center Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau. Tommy Wingels will take Pavelski's spot with Thornton and Melker Karlsson.

“Just looking for a spark," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "I’m not doing it because of their lack of success together, because I thought last game they actually produced again and started to get going. The one thing about those two guys is they’re both capable of making people around them better. With [Logan] Couture out of the lineup, I think we want to try and spread those guys out a little bit and see if they can get a couple lines going, which is always the goal.”

Couture suffered a right thigh injury Wednesday against the Edmonton Oilers in his second game back after recovering from a fractured right fibula. He had thigh surgery Thursday to stop arterial bleeding and is out indefinitely.

Thornton has one goal and one assist over his past 10 games. Pavelski has three goals and five assists over that stretch.

"I've played with so many players over the years, it doesn't matter," Thornton said of having a new linemate. "Wingels is a good player. Looking forward to that."

Thornton has four goals and 12 assists this season and is on pace to finish with 47 points, which would be his lowest total in a non-lockout season since 1998-99 (41) with the Boston Bruins.

"I feel good," Thornton said. "I feel like I can still play against anybody. Obviously I'm not the offensive juggernaut I was 10 years ago, but I feel good. I feel like I'm creating offense, I'm getting chances for my linemates, and that's what I'm supposed to do."

Veteran defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic will return to the Sharks' lineup after missing two games with a lower body injury. The Sharks gave up a combined eight goals to the Calgary Flames and Oilers without Vlasic.

Rookie center Ryan Carpenter, recalled from the San Jose Barracuda of the American Hockey League on Friday, will make his NHL debut and skate on the fourth line.

"It's exciting," said Carpenter, who had a team-high 20 points in 18 games for the Barracuda. "Yesterday after practice, I had a little time to soak it in and now I can just get focused. ... I'll just focus on having fun tonight and enjoying it and playing hard and playing the same game I've been playing all year."

Minnesota is coming off a 2-1 overtime road loss Friday night against the Arizona Coyotes. Goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who gave up two goals on 21 shots in 60:34 against Arizona, will make his third straight start in place of the injured Devan Dubnyk (groin strain).

Kuemper is 1-0-4 with a 2.80 goals-against average and .906 save percentage this season. In his career against San Jose, he's 1-1-2 with a 2.95 GAA and .890 save percentage.

"I've played against them a few times," Kuemper said. "I've played in this building. I know that they come out hard all the time so you just got to be ready for a good start and kind of weather their storm."

Minnesota has recorded a point in six straight games, going 3-0-3, but they've lost six times in overtime this season, including the past two.

"I like the way we're defending right now," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "I like the structure, the way we're playing without the puck, but we're at a point where our game could start to go the other way because we've had a couple OT losses in a row because offensively we haven't been burying a lot of pucks right now."

Here are the projected lineups:


Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Nino Niederreiter

Thomas Vanek - Charlie Coyle - Justin Fontaine

Chris Porter - Erik Haula - Ryan Carter

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin - Marco Scandella

Nate Prosser - Mathew Dumba

Darcy Kuemper

Niklas Backstrom

Injured: Devan Dubnyk (groin strain)

Scratched: Tyson Strachan


Melker Karlsson - Joe Thornton - Tommy Wingels

Patrick Marleau - Tomas Hertl - Joe Pavelski

Joonas Donskoi - Chris Tierney - Joel Ward

Dainius Zubrus - Ryan Carpenter - Mike Brown

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun

Paul Martin - Brent Burns

Dylan DeMelo - Brenden Dillon

Martin Jones

Alex Stalock

Injured: Logan Couture (right thigh), Matt Nieto (lower body)

Scratched: Matt Tennyson

Status update: Yeo said the Wild will stick with the same lineup they used against Arizona, which means defenseman Tyson Strachan, recalled Thursday from Iowa of the AHL, will be a healthy scratch again. ... Nieto skated Saturday but didn't take line rushes and was not ready to return to the lineup. ... DeMelo will start his second straight game in place of Tennyson. ... Sharks forward Ben Smith (concussion) was sent to the Barracuda on Friday for a conditioning stint.

Who's hot: Marleau has a goal and two assists over his past two games. ... Braun scored his first goal of the season against Edmonton and has three points (1-2-3) over his past three games. ... Pominville and Parise have three-game point streaks (1-2-3).

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