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Wild Warmup: Minnesota vs. San Jose

Wild returns to home ice, where it boasts West's best win percentage

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com
The essentials

Who: San Jose Sharks (38-18-7, 83 points, first place, Pacific Division) at Minnesota Wild (41-15-6, 88 points, first place, Central Division)

Puck drop: 5:08 p.m. CT

Watch: FOX Sports North; FOX Sports GoWild Watch Bar locationsNHL.TV

Listen: KFAN 100.3 FM

Follow: @mnwild; GameCenter


At the rink

Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, speaking about Nino Niederreiter's jumping onto different lines this season, hinted that he would eventually find his way onto newcomer Martin Hanzal's group.

It didn't take long for that premonition to come true, as the two are expected to combine with right wing Charlie Coyle -- at least to start -- against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday at Xcel Energy Center.

Hanzal has a pair of assists in his first three games on the Wild while Niederreiter has been one of the club's best offensive players all season, despite not finding a home on a consistent line.

Coyle got off to a red-hot start, but has struggled to find consistency of late. The hope is that putting Coyle on a line with fellow big players Niederreiter and Hanzal will allow the trio to use their size and keep pucks below the faceoff circles in the offensive zone.

"We've got a big line, so we've got to play that way. Be a good defensive, be a good shutdown line, be able to contribute offensively, too," Coyle said. "We just need to use our size. We know how to do that, we're capable of doing that and hanging onto the puck down low. It's there for us. it's up to us to see how we play. We have to play big, though."

Coyle said his time with Niederreiter and Eric Staal earlier this season made them the biggest group he's ever played with... until now.

Boudreau compared the line to one he had in Anaheim that featured Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Dustin Penner. All three had size, skill and simply grinded opponents down in the O-zone.

 "It's really intriguing," Boudreau said. "They just controlled the puck below the circles. I don't see why these three can't do the same."

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund

Zach Parise - Eric Staal - Chris Stewart

Nino Niederreiter - Martin Hanzal - Charlie Coyle

Jason Pominville - Erik Haula - Ryan White

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin - Matt Dumba

Marco Scandella - Christian Folin

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

SHARKS

Kevin Labanc - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Mikkel Boedker

Marcus Sorensen - Tomas Hertl - Joel Ward

Michael Haley - Chris Tierney - Melker Karlsson

Paul Martin - Brent Burns

Marc-Edouard Vlassic - Justin Braun

Brenden Dillon - David Schlemko

Martin Jones

Aaron Dell
 


The opponent

The surging San Jose Sharks come to town, boasting one of the NHL's best players in former Wild forward/defenseman Brent Burns, who has settled in nicely on the blue line in northern California. Burns is among the league leaders in scoring and could be the favorite for a handful of postseason awards this summer. The Sharks have won three straight games and have earned at least one point in eight consecutive contests.


Connections

• Wild forward Charlie Coyle was selected by the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the 2010 NHL Draft. 

• Burns was Minnesota's first-round pick in the 2003 NHL Draft and had 183 points in 453 games with the Wild from 2003-11.

• Sharks defenseman Justin Braun is from Vadnais Heights and played high school hockey at White Bear Lake.

• San Jose defenseman Paul Martin is an Elk River native who played three seasons for the University of Minnesota.

• Sharks forward Joel Ward made his NHL debut with the Wild in 2006-07 and played 11 games for Minnesota.


Home-ice advantage 

The Wild returns to Xcel Energy Center, where it has posted a 22-8-1 record this season, including wins in three of its past four games. Minnesota's .726 win percentage on home ice ranks third in the NHL and best in the Western Conference. The Wild has outscored its opponents 108-67 on home ice this season, including 26 power-play goals. Minnesota leads the NHL with a 29.9-percent success rate (26-for-87) on the power-play at home, scoring 15 power-play goals in its past 15 games in Saint Paul.

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