Sharks Face Wild In Minnesota Matinee: Game Preview

FEB 26, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; San Jose Sharks defenseman Justin Braun (61) and Minnesota Wild forward Devin Setoguchi (10) battle for the puck in the third period at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Sharks 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

The San Jose Sharks (13-10-6) take on the Minnesota Wild (17-10-2) at the early start time of 11am here on the west coast, 1pm start time for the teams in the midwest.

The Wild are right in the thick of the playoff race along with the Sharks.  They are third on the conference (compared to San Jose’s eighth) but are only four points ahead of them.  In fact, as of right now, 10 teams are within six points of each other ranging from the Wild in third all the way to the Predators in 12th.  There are not many games left either, so a couple losses in a row could spell disastrous for any team still in the race.

The Minnesota Wild are led by in points by centerman Mikko Koivu who has seven goals and 17 assists for 24 total points and defenseman Ryan Suter who has two goals and a team-leading 22 assists.  Former San Jose Shark (who went to the Wild in the Brent Burns deal) Devin Setoguchi is tied with Zach Parise for the team lead in goals with 11 so far this season.

For San Jose their win in Edmonton was a great one as the Sharks were able to come back from a 3-1 deficit midway through the third period.  They showed a resiliency and determination that we have not seen from this team very often.  Hopefully that win was a much needed spark and will prove to be a great sign in this final stretch of games heading to the playoffs.

For the Sharks we are seeing lots of good signs on offense so hopefully they are finally getting out of their rut.  Both Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton has five points in the last six games so the big guns are getting hot at the right time.  Also, do not forget about Scott Gomez who has five assists in his last five games as well.  Looks like that signing is finally paying off.

What To Watch For

While Antti Niemi has been great all season, these past few games his play has started declining.  He has been pulled a couple times in the last few games and what used to be top-three numbers in goals against average and save percentage have dropped significantly.   While he has started to struggle he has remained steady enough to pick up a few wins and was huge at the end of the third period and overtime against the Oilers last game making many timely saves.

Also, keep an eye on Joe Pavelski who has had a few good games now but has not registered a point in his last seven games.  He has been key on a number of goals by screening the goaltender but has no points to show for his great work in the dirty areas of play.  Look for that pointless streak to end very soon if he keeps his play up.

Topics: Antti Niemi, Devin Setoguchi, Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild, Patrick Marlea, Ryan Suter, San Jose Sharks, Zach Parise

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