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Wild Begins West Coast Swing in San Jose

Minnesota hasn't played since win streak was snapped Saturday against Columbus

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com

SAN JOSE -- The Minnesota Wild will open a three-game road trip through the West Coast when it plays the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night at SAP Center.

The game marks the first for Minnesota since a 4-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on New Year's Eve at Xcel Energy Center, a defeat that snapped the Wild's franchise-best 12-game winning streak.

Wild coach Bruce Boudreau has said he had started to see some bad habits creep into Minnesota's game, beginning with a 7-4 win against the New York Rangers on Dec. 23 in the final game before the NHL's mandated three-day holiday break.

After a 3-2 overtime win in Nashville, the Wild surrendered four goals in back-to-back games against the New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets. 

The 14 goals allowed over the past four games is two more than Minnesota has given up over the first nine games of its winning streak. 

"Hopefully we worked on a couple things in the last few days that will get us back to playing the way we were before the Columbus game ... actually, before the New York Rangers game," Boudreau said. "I thought before that we were pretty solid, and that's what we want to get back to."

The Wild used its most recent break to work on certain areas of its defensive game, most notably tightening up its neutral zone play that had loosened significantly over the past four games. 

Minnesota was able to overcome those deficiencies for three games until its luck ran out against the red-hot Blue Jackets, who ran their winning streak to 16 games on Wednesday with a win over the Edmonton Oilers.

The Wild will need to stay disciplined in its upcoming road trip against teams all capable of scoring goals at will.

Minnesota has struggled in recent seasons in San Jose, compiling a 2-10-1 record over its past 13 games at SAP Center, but if it can get back to its stingy ways defensively, the Wild feels it can start the West Coast swing on the right note.

"We feel if we play our game, we can beat any team in any building," said Wild forward Jason Zucker.

The game Thursday will be Wild captain Mikko Koivu's 800th in the NHL. Defenseman Jonas Brodin will also mark a milestone, playing in his 300th game.

The Sharks, who lead the Pacific Division by two points, will be looking to get back on track after losing twice to the Los Angeles Kings over the past four days. Prior to that, San Jose had been riding a four-game winning streak. 

The defending Western Conference champions have still compiled a 7-2-1 record over their past 10 games, led by former Wild defenseman Brent Burns, who leads the club with 35 points.

One-time Wisconsin Badger Joe Pavelski is right behind him with 34 points on 12 goals and 22 assists. Joe Thornton has just two goals in 38 games, but has dished out 23 helpers.

Martin Jones has been fantastic in goal, compiling a 19-12-2 record with a 2.10 goals against and a .920 save percentage.

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