In the Crease: Sharks make lone visit to Minnesota

In the Crease: Sharks make lone visit to Minnesota
December 7, 2013, 5:00 pm
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The Sharks are 26-14-2-5 all-time against the Wild, but are 0-4-1 in their last five games in Minnesota. (USATSI)

Programming note 
Sharks-Wild coverage gets underway at 2:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live, only on Comcast SportsNet California

Where they stand 
Sharks: 19-5-5, 43 points, 1st Pacific Division, 3rd Western Conference
Wild: 17-9-5, 39 points, 4th Central Division, 7th Western Conference

Vitals (through games of Dec. 6)

Sharks
Goals per game: 3.34 (3rd)
Goals-against per game: 2.34 (9th)
Power play: 18.2 percent (15th)
Penalty kill: 81.7 percent (16th)

Wild
Goals per game: 2.29 (24th)
Goals-against per game: 2.26 (6th)
Power play: 20.8 percent (7th)
Penalty kill: 78.0 percent (26th)

Probable lines

Sharks
Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Joe Pavelski
Matt Nieto - Andrew Desjardins - Tommy Wingels
James Sheppard - Freddie Hamilton - Tyler Kennedy

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Matt Irwin – Dan Boyle
Scott Hannan – Jason Demers

Antti Niemi
Alex Stalock

Wild
Zach Parise – Mikko Koivu – Jason Pominville
Nino Niederreiter – Charlie Coyle – Dany Heatley
Matt Cooke – Kyle Brodziak – Torrey Mitchell
Erik Haula – Zenon Konopka – Justin Fontaine

Ryan Suter – Jonas Brodin
Jared Spurgeon – Marco Scandella
Keith Ballard – Clayton Stoner

Josh Harding
Niklas Backstrom

The latest

Sharks: For the first time this season, the Sharks have lost consecutive games in regulation. San Jose failed to maintain leads at the first and second intermissions and fell to the Hurricanes on Friday in Raleigh, 5-3. Tommy Wingels, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun scored, and Alex Stalock took his first loss of the season with four goals allowed on 34 shots. The Sharks are 1-2 on a four-game road trip that concludes Sunday.

Wild: Minnesota was shut out by the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Friday, 4-0, as R.J. Umberger and Nick Foligno each had a goal and an assist and Curtis McElhinney made 20 saves in net. The Wild was going for its third straight win after beating Chicago 4-3 the night before, but has now lost five of its last seven overall (2-4-1).

Keep an eye on…

Sharks: Antti Niemi. The Sharks goaltender was pulled from Thursday’s game in Pittsburgh after allowing four goals on 27 shots, and will almost certainly return to the net after Alex Stalock took the loss on Friday in Carolina. Niemi was 9-1-1 with a 1.53 goals-against average and .933 save percentage in his first 11 starts, but in his last 14, he’s just 7-3-4 with a 2.95 GAA and .904 SP.

Wild: Jason Pominville. The top line winger has points in three of his last four games, while playing alongside Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise. Pominville, who recently signed a five-year, $28 million extension, leads the Wild with 14 goals. He has eight points (4g, 4a) in nine career games against the Sharks.

Injuries/Scratches

Sharks: Raffi Torres (right ACL surgery), Adam Burish (back surgery) and Mike Brown (undisclosed) are out.

Wild: Mikael Granlund (head) is out.

Season/All-Time series

This is the first of three meetings. The Wild visit the Sharks next Thursday, Dec. 12, and again on Jan. 25.

The Sharks are 26-14-2-5 all-time against the Wild. They are 0-4-1 in their last five games in Minnesota, though, and have not won here since April 2, 2010.

Quoteable

“Focus on the next one. … We get a day off [Saturday], and obviously we’ve got to try and win this Minnesota game, and salvage what we can out of this road trip.” – Dan Boyle, after the 5-3 loss in Carolina on Friday

Burning question

How concerned are you with the Sharks’ two-game regulation losing streak?

Leave your answer in the comments section below.