The San Jose Sharks (18-11-6) take on the Minnesota Wild (21-12-2) at home in the fifth game of their seven-game homestand. This will be the second matchup of the season between the two teams with a third coming later on this month. After a very busy trade deadline for San Jose it will be interesting to see how the team performs tonight.
San Jose is currently on a five game winning streak which includes their last four at home. Overall they have won six of their last seven and are slowly moving up the rankings in the Western Conference.
The last time these two teams met Minnesota was in the midst of a seven-game winning streak back on March 23rd. In that game the Wild defeated the Sharks by the final of 2-0 behind a 33 save performace from Niklas Backstrom who earned the shutout. Parise and Sturgeon scored the goals.
The Minnesota Wild are led by centerman Mikko Koivu who leads the team with 33 total points. Winger Zach Parise is second on the team in points with 30 and leads the team with 15 goals so far this season. He also has a plus-minus rating of +9 which also leads the team.
Leading the defenseman is Ryan Suter with 28 points, which is good enough for third most points on the team. He is also the leader in assists with 25 so far this season.
For the Sharks Joe Thornton, as always, leads the team in points 33 points which includes six goals and a team-leading 27 assists. Tied for second on the team in points are Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau. Couture has 15 goals and 11 assists while Marleau still leads the team with 16 goals to go along with his 10 assists.
What To Watch For
Today will be a great matchup in the faceoff circle with two of the top teams in the league. While it may not seem like a little trivial to focus so much on faceoffs the matchup cannot be taken lightly. The Sharks are a puck-possession type of team and when they do not posses the puck often they have trouble generating scoring chances. Also, the low goals allowed per game totals for each team can at least be somewhat attributed to their success in the circle.
Also key to watch tonight will be how the Sharks deal with all of the movement that has occurred in the last two days of this trade deadline. The hole left by the departure of Ryane Clowe will be tough to fill, even by the newly acquired Raffi Torres. We will probably have to wait until next game to see him though because I do not expect to see Torres in the lineup tonight and would be surprised if he was.
The loss of Michal Handzus will be easy to handle in my opinion because he has spent the latter part of the season in the press box. Also, the emergence of Adam Burish in the last two games has been great to see and should find himself in the lineup once again.