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Sharks face Wild, try to salvage finale of six-game trip

by Brian Hunter
SHARKS (43-19-10) at WILD (35-31-6)

Last 10: San Jose 3-6-1; Minnesota 4-4-2

Season series:
Third of four meetings this season. The first two were played in San Jose and won by the Sharks, Patrick Marleau scoring twice in a 4-2 victory on Oct. 10 and again in a 5-2 triumph on Jan. 30. Jason Demers also had a pair of goals in the most recent matchup.

Big story: It seemed unthinkable for much of the season that San Jose would be caught in the Pacific Division, but that's exactly what has happened. A combination of the Sharks going cold since the Olympic break and a nine-game winning streak by the Coyotes has resulted in Phoenix taking a one-point lead as play begins Tuesday.

Minnesota knows it won't win the Northwest Division, but the Wild still have flickering playoff hopes they'll try to keep alive with a second straight victory. This game will be televised nationally in the U.S. by Versus and TSN2 in Canada.

Team Scope:

Sharks: It's been six games and counting now without a win for San Jose. Even more alarming, the Sharks have given up 27 goals during their 0-5-1 skid, including eight to the Stars last Tuesday. Most recently, they fell 5-1 to the Oilers, who reside at the bottom of the NHL standings. Only a Ryane Clowe tally with 3:02 remaining prevented the Sharks from getting blanked by rookie Devan Dubnyk.

"It was quite embarrassing to be honest, to lose that way," goalie Evgeni Nabokov said. "I don't know if this is rock bottom or not, but we are certainly hoping it is. Hopefully we can get back to climbing the hill after this. I think the confidence level is nowhere to be found right now and we have to find it."

Wild: Guillaume Latendresse has been hot ever since arriving in Minnesota. Chuck Kobasew has been on a tear of late, after coming back from a knee injury. The two of them accounted for three of the four Wild goals in a crucial 4-3 win Sunday over the Flames, who desperately needed the two points as they are currently the Red Wings' closest competition for the eighth seed. The Wild are nine points out with 10 games left.

"We have nothing to lose, we have everything to win now," Latendresse said. "That's the way we have to see it. We know its going to be hard. It's going to be really hard to make it. But if we don't try, we're never going to know."

Who's hot: Kobasew has four goals in as many games, while Latendresse has 10 goals in his last 17 games and a team-leading 24 for the Wild in just 47 games. He was acquired in late November from the Canadiens, where he had just two goals in 23 games.

Injury report: San Jose forward Jed Ortmeyer is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. … Minnesota defenseman Shane Hnidy (leg) and forward Derek Boogaard (facial lacerations) are day-to-day. Defensemen Justin Falk (concussion) and Clayton Stoner (sports hernia) are out indefinitely.

Stat pack: Nabokov has gone 10-0-1 with a 1.62 goals-against average in his last 11 games against the Wild. … Josh Harding has started a career-high seven straight games for Minnesota and won five in a row at the Xcel Energy Center.

Puck drop: This is the finale of a six-game road trip for San Jose that has been fruitless so far. Coach Todd McLellan wasn't mincing words or making any excuses following the flop in Edmonton.

"The frustration level is growing as the days go on," he said. "We didn't really show a lot of emotion in the game until the end of it when it didn't really matter. I'm tired of hearing in our locker room and around the team that adversity is good for us and will pay off in the end.

"It's not going to unless we dig ourselves out of it. There is something missing right now, and we have to figure what it is pretty darn quick."

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