SAN JOSE Coming off of one of their worst defensive efforts of the season, the Sharks will be without Douglas Murray when they host the NHL-leading Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night. Murray has a right hand injury likely occurred while blocking a shot in the 5-3 loss to Florida on Saturday.
In, it appears, is Justin Braun, who was reassigned to Worcester just a week ago. Based on the morning skate, the struggling Colin White will be scratched.
Todd McLellan was tinkering with his defense pairings even before Murrays injury, and will have no choice to ice some new combinations tonight.
Well start a certain way, and if we like what we see, we wont tinker with it, said the coach. If we dont like what we see of if there isnt chemistry, well look at moving things around fairly quickly.
In practice on Monday, Dan Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic were paired together. Braun and Brent Burns have played opposite of one another at times this season, while Jim Vandermeer and Jason Demers have also skated entire games as a pair.
As for Braun, McLellan had nothing but complimentary things to say when he was reassigned to Worcester last Tuesday. The bottom line, though, was that Braun needed to play. Thats just what he did in Worcester, playing three games with the Sharks AHL affiliate.
It was nice to play a lot and get a lot of minutes. You just wait for that call to come back up and hope that it pays off, he said.
As for the trips back and forth across the country, Braun said: You cant get too up or too down. Thats the nature of the game.
Reunion night, Part 2: It certainly doesnt carry the same emotions as the first time they were in the building on November 10, but former Sharks Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley will play in just their second game at HP Pavilion since the offseason trades between the Sharks and Wild.
Off the ice, that pair remains good friends with some old teammates. On the ice it's a different story, and Ryane Clowe had some reporters laughing this morning with his blunt honestly.
I got to say hello to them last night, but Ill say hello to them again and Ill certainly say hello to them again on the ice when I try to run them over, he said, smiling.
Its a tough part of the business to see those guys go, they are great guys and great teammates. You ask anyone in here, you all miss them, but weve got Mr. Personality over there who could make up for 10 guys in Brent Burns.
Setoguchi is also ready to move on.
Now that the first game is out of the way, this is just another road game, he said. Its always fun coming back, and hopefully this time we can get a couple points outta here.
The Sharks won the first meeting, 3-1, behind a pair of power play goals from Patrick Marleau.
Defense first for Wild: Minnesota enters the game fourth in the NHL in goals against with just 2.18. Thats a credit to their goaltenders, Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding, but also to their team game.
The Wild do a good job clogging up the neutral zone and not allowing any easy entries into their defensive zone.
They have a great goalie but their general style is defense first, said Torrey Mitchell. Having Setoguchi and Heatley, they have some offensive power. They play well as a team.
Setoguchi and Heatley are two of five Minnesota players with eight goals apiece, as the Wild dont have a single player in the Top 40 in scoring in the NHL (nor do the Sharks). Thornton and Mikko Koivu are the respective team leaders with 21 points apiece.
Tops in the league: Minnesotas 37 points (17-7-3) place them in first place overall in the NHL. They have won four in a row, while the Sharks have dropped three of their last four games in regulation.
We better be ready and better than we have been lately, said McLellan. Weve got to get a little more tempo into our game. The back end has to be much more polished, obviously, than it was against Florida. So, it sounds like a complete game to me, the way I just described it.
Theyre just really, really hard to score on, said Mitchell. They seem to get a one or two goal advantage and shut it down, and dont give up much. It will be important to score first and try to build off of that.
The Sharks managed to score first for just the eighth time all year on Saturday against Florida. They had been a perfect 7-0 before the loss to the Panthers.
Minnesota, meanwhile, has erased 2-0 deficits in each of their last three road games to win.
Hopefully we can get up by two, and well take our chances, said Joe Thornton.
Odds and ends: Antti Niemi will oppose Josh Harding in net. ... In four career starts against the Wild, Niemi is 4-0-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average, .939 save percentage and one shutout. Minnesotas roster features Bay Area native Casey Wellman, who was recently recalled. Wellman is a former San Jose Junior Shark. Logan Couture has three goals and an assist in his last two games. Jamie McGinn has scored in consecutive games.