Sharks-Wild Preview

After a dominant start to the season, Minnesota Wild goaltenders have posted consecutive less-than-stellar performances.

Their regression is in danger of continuing with the San Jose Sharks traveling to Minnesota on Thursday night touting one of the NHL’s top offenses.

Darcy Kuemper opened the season 4-1-0 with three shutouts and only four goals allowed in five starts. He blanked the New York Rangers through two periods Monday but gave up five goals in a 14-minute span of the third, posting a season-low 15 saves in a 5-4 road loss.

The Wild (5-3-0) righted the ship Tuesday in a 4-3 win in Boston, but backup goalie Niklas Backstrom allowed three goals on 20 shots through two periods before Minnesota rallied.

"The way it all worked out, we’re really not too disappointed," coach Mike Yeo said. "We learned a couple lessons on the trip."

Minnesota’s goaltending has received no support from a power-play unit which is scoreless in 26 opportunities. Buffalo is the only other team yet to score on the power play.

Kuemper is expected to be in net Thursday as Minnesota opens a three-game homestand. He’s started all three home games, and the Wild have won them all while outscoring opponents 14-2.

The Sharks (6-4-1) have lost all six trips to Minnesota since the start of the 2010-11 season, but they enter Thursday looking to complete a perfect three-game road trip. Two days after winning 4-1 in Anaheim, San Jose needed a shootout to defeat Colorado 2-1 on Tuesday despite totaling 51 shots.

"If we expect to play perfect we’re dreaming," coach Todd McLellan said. "It doesn’t happen that way. There were lapses, but we’re starting to put it together a little bit longer night in and night out.

"We are still a work in progress."

The Sharks rank near the top of the NHL in goals (33) and shots (32.4 per game), and the usual suspects have stepped up during the trip. Joe Pavelski scored in Anaheim and netted the shootout winner against the Avalanche, and Logan Couture has three points over the two games.

"Our intensity has been there," Pavelski said. "Everyone’s played. Everyone’s been a big part of the wins, of the games. It’s a sign. It’s a good thing."

The biggest contributor for San Jose, though, has been ex-Wild star Brent Burns, who has scored in three straight games and leads all NHL defensemen with 12 points.

"I’m playing with great players," said Burns, who now can extend his point streak to a career-high six games. "I feel good with my game."

Antti Niemi has stopped 64 of 67 shots over San Jose’s last two games, improving his record to 5-2-0. He’s won four of his previous five starts against Minnesota, allowing two or fewer goals in each. He is 8-3-1 all-time against the Wild with a 1.83 goals-against average.

Zach Parise leads Minnesota with eight points, and the Wild’s only three losses have come in games when he’s failed to get one. He didn’t have any in last season’s final two meetings with Niemi and the Sharks, and Minnesota lost both.

Mikko Koivu has only one point in eight games this season despite leading all Wild forwards in ice time.