WILD (21-12-2) at SHARKS (18-11-6)
Minnesota 8-2-0, San Jose 7-3-0
Second of three meetings, first of two at HP Pavilion. The Wild took the first game at Xcel Enegry Center, 2-0 on March 23, their fourth straight win over the Sharks.
The Sharks are riding a five-game winning streak, their longest since winning seven in a row to open the season. But that didn’t stop them from shipping forward Ryane Clowe to the New York Rangers on Tuesday night in exchange for three draft picks. San Jose had already traded defenseman Douglas Murray and forward Michal Handzus.
"Ryane is a tremendously respected player and teammate, and an individual of outstanding character," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said. "These deals involving players who have spent a substantial amount of time in and contributed much to San Jose are difficult, but it's also important for us to get value for a player who is set to be an unrestricted free agent. We want to wish Ryane and his family the best in the future and thank them for everything they have done for the Sharks organization and the San Jose community.”
With so much at stake and so little time left in the season, now is not the time for a team to slow down. But the Wild played the first two periods of Monday night's matchup with the St. Louis Blues as if the grind of six games in 10 days was finally catching up with them, and the fans in Xcel Energy Center were on to it, booing their team as the second period wound down. They picked up the pace in the third, outshooting the Blues 13-2, but the 4-1 loss got Zach Parise and his teammates' attention.
“We were flat. We got what we deserved. We didn’t play well at all,” Parise told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “It was pretty similar to the team that we started the season. That’s the type of game we played — not competitive, and too many turnovers.
“It’s crept back into our game. The last few games we’ve gotten away with it. Tonight, against a team like that, you’re not going to.”
It could have been a distraction. With all the trade rumors that surrounded Clowe that finally materialized with a deal to the Rangers on Tuesday, the Sharks took the ice against the Vancouver Canucks on Monday without the veteran forward and extended their winning streak to five games with the 3-2 victory. Three goals within 2:13, one each by Andrew Desjardins, Joe Thornton and Logan Couture, sealed the deal.
"I think they rolled with it pretty easy," coach Todd McLellan said of his team's reaction to the unusual circumstances. "They're smart people in the locker room. They sense what's going on with Clowe's situation. It didn't just pop out of thin air today."
Mikko Koivu's seven-game point streak was stopped Monday. Devin Setoguchi had seven goals and four assists in 10 games before being held off the board as well. Parise has a six-game point streak against the Sharks, with three goals and five assists. Overall, the Wild had scored 38 goals in nine games leading up to Monday, which has helped goalie Niklas Backstrom, who has a 3-1-0 record in his past four games despite a 3.40 goals-against average over the stretch. ... Thornton also picked up an assist Monday, extending his point streak to three games. Antti Niemi has won four straight starts with a 0.98 GAA and also has back-to-back wins against the Sharks. The Sharks' defense is one big reason they've won five straight -- they've only given up seven goals after allowing 35 over a prior 2-5-2 slump.