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Sharks-Wild Preview

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GAME: San Jose Sharks (34-24-10) at Minnesota Wild (32-31-7).

TIME: Saturday, 8 p.m. EST.

The surging San Jose Sharks suffered a rare lopsided loss Thursday, but they hope to resume their push for a playoff berth against the Minnesota Wild.

With six wins in their last eight games, the Sharks have moved within two points of the Edmonton Oilers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Their bid to catch Edmonton was slowed Thursday with a 4-0 defeat to the Detroit Red Wings.

San Jose's top line featuring Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo failed to generate many scoring chances as the Sharks lost by more than two goals for the first time since a 6-2 defeat Jan. 28 at Phoenix.

"We need a complete team effort in order to beat a team like Detroit, especially here and we didn't get it," said San Jose coach Ron Wilson. "We'll just throw it away and move on to the next game."

San Jose has split the first two games of its five-game road trip and had scored 36 goals in its previous eight games before Thursday's shutout loss. Thornton has 100 points, trailing only New York Rangers right wing Jaromir Jagr, and Cheechoo is fourth in the NHL with 43 goals.

The Sharks also have gotten an unexpected offensive contribution from rookie Steve Bernier, who has scored seven goals in 12 games since the Olympic break while taking just 20 shots.

San Jose, which has 13 games left, also makes stops Sunday at Chicago and Tuesday at Columbus.

The Wild are nine points behind the Oilers, and their playoff chances have diminished with three losses in their last four games. Minnesota's offense, the source of season-long frustration, has again been problematic by scoring more than two goals just once in the last four games.

Minnesota squandered a third-period lead in a 4-2 defeat Wednesday to Dallas, allowing three goals in a 5:18 span.

"It feels like it's sliding away as far as making the playoffs a reality," Minnesota captain Wes Walz said.

The game marked just the third time all season that goaltender Manny Fernandez has allowed more than three goals in a game.

Marian Gaborik continues to be the lone consistent source of offense for the Wild. He scored Wednesday to extend his single-season franchise record and has nine goals in 11 games since the Olympic break.

Minnesota has won four straight games over the Sharks, including three this season.

STANDINGS: Sharks - 78 points, 4th place, 19 PB, Pacific Division. Wild - 71 points, 5th place, 15 PB, Northwest Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Sharks - Cheechoo, 43 goals; Thornton, 75 assists and 100 points; Mark Smith, 89 PIM. Wild - Gaborik, 33 goals; Brian Rolston, 43 assists and 72 points; Derek Boogaard, 146 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Sharks - Power play: 17.4 percent (71 for 407), 18th (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.4 percent (272 for 334), 21st. Wild - Power play: 17.9 percent (71 for 397), 14th (tied). Penalty killing: 88.4 percent (329 for 372), 1st.

GOALTENDERS: Sharks - Evgeni Nabokov (15-17-7, 1 SO, 3.06 GAA); Vesa Toskala (14-6-3, 1, 2.72). Wild - Fernandez (26-14-6, 1, 2.27); Josh Harding (0-0-0, 0, ---).

SEASON SERIES: Wild, 3-0.

LAST MEETING: Feb. 2; Wild, 3-2 (SO). At San Jose, Gaborik scored the game-tying goal with 5:01 left in regulation, and the Wild completed the comeback when Rolston scored in the fourth round of the shootout.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sharks - 12-17-4 on the road; Wild - 20-14-2 at home.

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