Sharks-Wild Preview

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.