Preview: Wild @ Sharks 06 Dec 11

THE STORY: Just as the San Jose Sharks are hitting a bit of a rough patch, they have to welcome one of the hottest teams in the league in the Minnesota Wild. The Sharks have dropped three of four since beginning November with a 7-1-1 stretch that pushed them back among the leaders in the Pacific Division. Problems on the penalty kill resurfaced Saturday when San Jose let in a pair of power-play goals in a 5-3 loss to the Florida Panthers. The Wild kicked off their five-game road trip in thrilling fashion Sunday, battling back from a 2-0 deficit to earn a 5-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. Minnesota had relied mostly on defense and goaltending to take them to the top of the conference but have started to light up the scoreboard lately, averaging just under four goals during their four-game winning streak.

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, FS North (Minnesota), CS California (San Jose)

ABOUT THE WILD (17-7-3): Minnesota is playing with a lot of confidence after nine wins in its last 11 games. The first five of those victories were defensive clinics as the Wild did not allow more than two goals in any of the contests. But lately, the offense has taken over. Five different players scored Sunday, with Cal Clutterbuck, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Casey Wellman each recording a goal and an assist. Matt Cullen collected three helpers and has four in the last two games.

ABOUT THE SHARKS (14-8-1): San Jose can look back to Nov. 10 when it dominated the Wild in a 3-1 home victory. Patrick Marleau scored twice in that contest while Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi, who were traded from San Jose to Minnesota over the summer, combined for one shot and no points in their return. The Sharks could probably use those two at the moment, especially a bruising forward such as Setoguchi. San Jose allowed three goals in the second period against the Panthers.

OVERTIME:
1. Logan Couture has four points – three goals – in the last two games for San Jose.

2. Josh Harding, who could get the start in goal for Minnesota with Niklas Backstrom ailing, allowed five goals in his lone previous start against the Sharks.

3. San Jose has won the last three and eight of 10 in the series.

PREDICTION: Sharks 3, Wild 2.