WILD (1-2-0) at SHARKS (2-2-0)
Season Series: These two teams have yet to meet this season, but split the four-game series last season. The Sharks won the first and last game of the series, while the Wild won the two middle games. All but one of the decisions was by one goal.
Big Story: All eyes are on San Jose as the hockey universe remains eager to see how the Sharks will cope with last season's bitterly disappointing first-round exit from the playoffs and the ensuing shakeup of personnel the franchise underwent. It's been an uneven start for the Sharks, but there were hints of the team hitting its stride in its last game, a 6-3 win against Columbus.
Wild: Minnesota is in the midst of a five-game road swing and has had trouble getting out of the gate in games. Two games previous, the Wild fell behind Anaheim, 3-0, before rallying for a 4-3 win. Last game, it was the same 3-0 deficit, this time against the Kings, and the rally fell short as Los Angeles took a 6-3 decision. Minnesota coach Todd Richards wants a better start from his club Saturday night at the HP Pavilion
Sharks: San Jose is still trying to find its new identity, one that changed dramatically when Dany Heatley was brought into the fold late in the summer. One thing is clear, though: the Sharks plan to play the same type of attacking hockey that led the club to the Presidents' Trophy last season.
"This is a very good team with a great chance to win," Heatley said. "I think we all understand that. I like the system. I think an offensive system makes the game fun and fast-paced."
Who's Hot -- The aforementioned Heatley, traded from Ottawa after a summer-long divorce, scored a hat trick in his home debut. Not a bad to ingratiate yourself to the faithful. Heatley's center, Joe Thornton, had four assists against the Blue Jackets and already has eight helpers on the season. For the Wild, it is their power play that is carrying the load. The man-advantage unit is clicking near 50 percent after three games and Martin Havlat, the team's big offseason addition, scored a power-play goal against the Kings.
Injury Report: The Sharks were dealt a blow early in the season when emerging young center Joe Pavelski was ruled out for at least two weeks. Fortunately, the Sharks have incredible depth down the middle. Torrey Mitchell is also out for the Sharks, but is expected back later this month. Minnesota is without tough guy Derek Boogaard, who is out with a concussion. Pierre-Marc Bouchard also has a head injury and is questionable for Saturday night's game.
Stat Pack: Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov certainly must be happy to see the Wild wander into town. Nabokov is 8-0-1 against Minnesota since Nov. 7, 2006.
Puck Drop: San Jose's top line is very quickly developing chemistry, which is good news for the Sharks and bad news for everyone else. Thornton is perhaps the most underrated passer in the game and Heatley and Devin Setoguchi are natural finishers. Heatley, who had an abnormally low 72 points last season, already has 9 points in just four games.
"It was a very dangerous line as the night went on," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "They're starting to instinctively know where each other is on the ice."
-- Shawn P. Roarke, NHL.com