WILD (21-15-6) at SHARKS (23-11-4)
TV: NBCSN (HD), TSN2
Minnesota 1-7-2; San Jose 8-1-1
This is the third of four meetings this season. The teams split the first two games, both played in San Jose. The Wild seek their third straight home win over San Jose.
When these teams met back on Dec. 6, the Wild were surging, while the Sharks were struggling. Now, the roles are reversed with San Jose shooting for its fifth straight win and Minnesota hoping to avoid its fourth loss in a row. The Sharks aim to add to their Pacific Division lead, while the Wild try to stay in the Western Conference playoff picture after going 1-8-3 since Dec. 10, when they had a five-point lead as the West's top team.
Minnesota avoided its second straight shutout as forward Dany Heatley
slipped one past Calgary Flames' goalie Miikka Kiprusoff with less than seven minutes remaining in Saturday's 3-1 loss, but that was about the only positive the team could manage.
A return to Xcel Energy Center isn't necessarily a solution to the Wild's problems as they are just 2-2-2 there over their last six games. But playing at home should probably yield better results as Minnesota is 0-6-1 in its last seven road games with its last win coming back on Dec. 10 against Phoenix.
San Jose will try to establish a three-game road winning streak, while also trying to extend its overall hot streak to five in a row as it faces off against a vulnerable Minnesota team Tuesday. The Sharks will hope for a similar result to Saturday's 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals, in which left wing Patrick Marleau
notched a goal and 2 assists to extend his points streak to five games. Marleau has 2 goals and 5 assists during the run and has put up 5 goals and 13 points in his last 11 games for the Sharks.
Marleau's goal was the result of a pretty no-look pass from center Joe Thornton
after Jumbo Joe took a crisp feed from Dan Boyle
at the point. The play was an example of the excellent all-round effort the Sharks have been getting from nearly all their players recently.
"Dan made a great play to see me, and Patty just gave a little scream so I knew where he was," Thornton said. "Patty just talking made that all happen."
Heatley has goals in three of his last five games for the Wild. … Sharks goalie Antti Niemi
has won three in a row and is 4-1-0 with a 1.61 goals-against average and one shutout in his career against Minnesota.
For Minnesota, forward Guillaume Latendresse
(concussion) remains out, while forward Jarod Palmer
(upper body) is on injured reserve. … The Sharks are expected to be without forward Martin Havlat
(lower body) and defensemen Jim Vandermeer
(upper body) and Colin White
Part of the reason for Minnesota's rough patch is that it has scored two goals or fewer in each of its last nine losses. Prior to that, the Wild reeled off at least three goals in seven of their previous nine games.
Minnesota has certainly hit a bump in the road, but it's not too late to get back on track. This appeared to be the sentiment shared by the Wild players after Saturday's loss.
"We've got to try and find a way to reset," forward Kyle Brodziak
said. "We've obviously lost our game in the last month or so. Everything we do has to find a way to get back to doing the little things we were doing when we were having success."