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Wild take a second crack at knocking off Sharks

by Brian Hunter /
WILD (17-7-3) at SHARKS (14-8-1)


Last 10:
Minnesota 8-2-0; San Jose 6-4-0

Season series:
Second of four meetings. Patrick Marleau scored twice on the power play during a three-goal second period that led the Sharks to a 3-1 win over the Wild in San Jose on Nov. 10.

Big story: There seems to be no slowing down Minnesota, which has the longest active winning streak in the Western Conference at four games. This has allowed the Wild to maintain a six-point lead in the Northwest Division over a Vancouver squad that seems to have rediscovered its form as of late.

Team Scope:

Wild: Continuing a seemingly daily flip-flop over the past week with Pittsburgh for the lead in the overall NHL standings, Minnesota rallied from a two-goal deficit in Anaheim for a 5-3 win Sunday in the Ducks' second game under new coach Bruce Boudreau. The Wild scored three in a row to take a 3-2 lead, and after the Ducks tied it midway through the third it was Nick Johnson netting the game-winner with 5:31 left. Cal Clutterbuck's empty-netter secured the two points.

"We have a group of guys in there that are not going to quit, they're not going to give up and look for excuses," rookie coach Mike Yeo said. "One thing we can really credit our success with is that we try not to get wrapped up in the score. We just know that it's about the next shift, going out and playing our game. All it takes is one play to get us right back in there."

No division is more logjammed at the moment than the Pacific, where two points was the difference between first place and fourth entering the day. San Jose missed an opportunity to move into a tie for the lead on Saturday by surrendering a three-goal second period in a 5-3 loss to visiting Florida. Logan Couture opened the scoring and added a goal in the third to bring the Sharks back within one, but turning the puck over haunted them on a number of occasions.

"We were very sloppy," said coach Todd McLellan, who took away Sunday's planned off-day for his team. "That's probably as poorly I've seen our six D play in four years altogether as a group with turnovers. Forwards didn't create much of a forecheck. It was a full team game. If we didn't want to work tonight we'll find some time tomorrow to do it."

Who's hot: Wild forward Casey Wellman has goals in back-to-back games after his recent call-up. Dany Heatley has also lit the lamp in two straight. Clutterbuck has 3 goals and 2 assists in his last four games. … Couture has 3 goals and 1 assist in the Sharks' last two games. Jamie McGinn has goals in consecutive games.

Injury report: Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom left Friday's win over New Jersey after one period due to a groin strain and is day-to-day. Josh Harding started against Anaheim with Matt Hackett serving as backup. Defensemen Mike Lundin and Justin Falk are on injured reserve with back spasms. Defenseman Marek Zidlicky and forward Guillaume Latendresse are on injured reserve with concussions. … San Jose goalies Antero Niittymaki (hip) and Alex Stalock (knee) are on injured reserve.

Stat pack:
Sunday's win for the Wild was their first this season when allowing more than two goals. Their team goals-against average of 2.18 ranks fifth in the League. … Sharks defenseman Brent Burns, who had a career-high 98 penalty minutes last season while with Minnesota, didn't have a penalty through 22 games this season before he was called for roughing in the second period Saturday.

Puck drop:
Of the four current NHLers who switched sides in this rivalry during the offseason (Heatley and Devin Setoguchi to Minnesota, Burns and Martin Havlat to San Jose), Burns was the only one to record a point the first time these teams met. He drew the secondary assist on Marleau's second power-play goal.

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