The Wild, 3-0-3 in its past six games looks to rediscover its winning ways after consecutive overtime losses, the latest last night in Glendale, Ariz.
Same lineup tonight, meaning Darcy Kuemper back in the cage. Martin Jones starts for the Sharks.
The Wild, which has allowed five goals in the past five games but has only scored eight, is 0-1-3 in the back end of back-to-backs this season and plays in an arena in which it usually leaves demoralized.
The Wild is 0-4-1 in its past five visits to San Jose, 1-9-1 in 11 visits since March 5, 2009 and has won twice in 16 visits since Oct. 21, 2006.
The Sharks are winless in five games (0-4-1) this month. Under the NHL’s playoff format, they sit third in the Pacific Division even though they have fewer points than Winnipeg, which sits ninth in the West.
We'll see if the Wild, which lost its sixth of seven overtimes this season, last night, has legs tonight. Last time the Wild played in Arizona, it paraded to the penalty box to the tune of seven times and had no legs the next night in, of course, an overtime loss at Los Angeles.
Last night in Arizona, the Wild gave Arizona six power plays, including two late in the third period and one in overtime.
We'll also see how chewed up the ice is. It's a double header at SAP Center today as the San Diego Gulls (Anaheim's AHL affiliate) vs. the San Jose Barracuda (the Sharks' affiliate). In fact, I saw Matt Hackett, whom the Wild traded while it was in this building in the Jason Pominville trade, and Minnesota residents Stu Bickel and Tim Jackman this morning.
"Bigger picture wise, our focus has to be we have points in six straight games. I like the way we're defending right now, I like the structure and the way we're playing without the puck, but we're at a point where our game can start to go the other way because we've had a couple OT losses in a row because offensively we haven't been burying a lot of pucks right now," coach Mike Yeo said. "So does that part of your game start to slip or do you keep that part of your game and build onto it by being a little defensively? That to me has to be our focus right now."
The coaches did a lot of video tutorials with Nino Niederreiter and Jason Zucker today. Both are fighting it right now.
Zach Parise echoed the coach, saying the Wild's playing really well without the puck and "just offensively, we can be better."
His line with Mikael Granlund and Pominville "is playing good, we're playing fast, we're coming up the ice together, in the zone we're supporting each other really well. Through the last four games, we're getting like 10 Grade A's a game. You feel like you should leave the game with five points. So I think we're going in the right direction."
Also, with Tyler Graovac ready to return after missing two months with a sports hernia, the Wild expectedly removed him from injured reserve and assigned the young center to AHL Iowa on Saturday.
Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr said last week that Graovac, who has played only one game this season, would need to play games in Iowa to get his game going. Graovac said last week he had no problem with that likely decision.