Sharks look to stop old friends, streaking Wild

Sharks look to stop old friends, streaking Wild
March 23, 2013, 9:45 am
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Former Sharks Dany Heatley (8g, 9a) and Devin Setoguchi (11g, 9a) have 37 combined points. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

INSIDE THE MATCHUP

- The Wild have won three consecutive games against the Sharks for the first time since a 4-game streak that came to an end in 2006.

- The Wild, who have scored nine power-play goals over their last nine games, have won four straight games by multiple goals for the first time in franchise history.

- After allowing five power-play goals over their first three games this season, the Sharks have allowed just nine power-play goals in their 26 games since. Their 90.0 penalty-kill percentage since January 25 is the highest in the Western Conference.

- The Wild (53.4) and Sharks (53.1) rank second and third, respectively, this season in faceoff win percentage.

- Former Shark and current Wild winger Devin Setoguchi has scored six goals over his last five games.

- Logan Couture has scored a pair of goals in two of his last four games, after doing so just once over his previous 38 games.

Programming note: Sharks-Wild airs on Comcast SportsNet California at 11 a.m. Stick around after the final horn for Sharks Postgame Live!

Riding their longest winning stretch of the season, the Minnesota Wild appear poised to succeed every time they take the ice.

The San Jose Sharks hope to reach that level of confidence before it's too late.

Back from a perfect trip, the Wild look for a fifth straight victory while trying to continue their recent success over the desperate Sharks on Saturday.

Devin Setoguchi scored twice and Niklas Backstrom made 36 saves as Minnesota (17-10-2) concluded a 3-0-0 trip with a 4-2 win at Detroit on Wednesday. In the midst of their longest winning streak since a seven-game run Nov. 28-Dec. 10, 2011, the Wild have won 11 of 15 and have one game in hand on Northwest Division co-leader Vancouver.

Minnesota has not been to the playoffs since 2007-08.

"It's been fun hockey," said ex-Shark Setoguchi, who has six of his 11 goals and two assists in his last five games. "The main thing is everyone is ready to go at the start of the game.

"Right now we've got our identity filled out. We know what we're doing and we're trying to ride it."

The Wild, who have 18 goals in four games, are 11 for 44 (25.0 percent) on the power play in the last 12 contests after going 8 for 58 (13.8) through the first 17.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard has a goal and six assists in four games while Mikko Koivu has four with eight assists in his last 12. Dany Heatley, another former Shark, had four assists on the trip.

"We've just got everybody contributing right now," coach Mike Yeo said. "Getting it from the power play, getting it from different lines."

Backstrom has been in net for each game during the winning streak and stopped 71 of 74 shots in beating Vancouver and Detroit.

"You've got everybody going out and playing our game," Yeo said. "We've been doing a real good job of looking at what is right in front of us."

Minnesota is 10-3-1 at home and looking for a fifth straight win there over San Jose (13-10-6) in this first season meeting between the clubs. The Wild have won the last three overall in the series, each by one goal.

San Jose improved to 1-2-0 on a five-game trip Wednesday when it rallied from a two-goal deficit to win 4-3 in a shootout at Edmonton. Logan Couture scored twice in regulation and in the shootout to help the Sharks win for the second time in eight games.

While Minnesota is in the mix for a division title, San Jose is simply trying to make the playoffs in the crowded Western Conference.

"It's a battle every night," Couture said. "There are no easy points in this conference, every single team is so good. To win the way that we were able to and come back with two goals in the third, hopefully that can get us going in the right direction.

"We need all the points we can get right now."

Couture has six of his 14 goals in the last seven games. He has three in his last six versus Minnesota.

San Jose's Antti Niemi has a 3.55 goals-against average while going 2-3-1 in the last seven games. He's allowed six goals in losing his last two against the Wild after yielding that many while winning his first four versus Minnesota.