Preview: Wild at Sharks
All that’s standing between the San Jose Sharks and home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs is a win over a team they haven’t been able to solve this season.
It’s a pivotal season finale Saturday night when the Sharks meet the Minnesota Wild at SAP Center.
San Jose (45-26-10) snapped a four-game skid with a 4-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday.
“It wasn’t a pretty win, but we found a way. Tough time of year, tough circumstances against a real desperate team,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said.
Home-ice advantage through the first two rounds of the postseason goes to the team that finishes higher in the regular-season standings. With 100 points, San Jose is in second place in the Pacific Division, one point ahead of the Anaheim Ducks and two in front of the Los Angeles Kings.
All three California teams are in action Saturday. Anaheim travels to meet the Arizona Coyotes, while Los Angeles plays host to the Dallas Stars. Neither the Coyotes nor the Stars are headed to the postseason.
A win over Minnesota locks down second place for San Jose and would come after two crushing losses. On Dec. 10, the Sharks rallied from three goals down at home before falling 4-3 in overtime to the Wild. On Feb. 25, San Jose squandered a two-goal edge and lost 3-2 in overtime in St. Paul.
Brent Burns has two power-play goals against the Wild this season. Minnesota selected Burns 20th overall in the 2003 draft before trading him to the Bay Area in 2011. With 65 points, last season’s Norris Trophy winner is second in the league in scoring among defensemen, one point behind the Stars’ John Klingberg.
Sharks forward Evander Kane is expected to miss his third straight game with an undisclosed injury. However, he told the San Jose Mercury News this week that he’ll be good to go for his postseason debut.
“As long as I’ve got two arms and two legs, I’ll be playing no matter what,” said Kane, who has nine goals and five assists in 14 games after being acquired from the Buffalo Sabres at the trade deadline.
The Sharks’ Martin Jones, who collected his 30th win Thursday, is 0-3-2 with a 3.35 goals-against average in his last five starts against Minnesota. Backup Aaron Dell has never faced the Wild.
Regardless of the outcome of this game, Minnesota (44-26-11) will not have the home-ice edge when it faces the Winnipeg Jets in the first round. However, the Wild are looking to avoid their fifth consecutive loss on the road — including a California sweep.
After falling 3-1 to Anaheim on Wednesday, Minnesota dropped a 5-4 overtime decision to Los Angeles.
“We’ve got to get back to playing the right way,” Wild defenseman Nate Prosser said.
Three of Eric Staal’s 41 goals on the season for Minnesota have come versus the Sharks. He needs one more to top his total over the last two seasons combined with the Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers and the Wild.
There is a chance that the 33-year-old veteran of nearly 1,100 games might sit out to rest for the postseason, but he’d rather see action.
“I like to play, I love being out there regardless of any situation,” said Staal, who has four goals and two assists in his last two games in San Jose. “We’ll see what gets talked about (Friday) and what the game plan is. But I’m fine with playing. We’ve got a couple more days anyway before playoffs start, so I’d like to be out there with the guys.”
Devan Dubnyk has alternated losses and wins in his last nine starts (4-3-2) with a 2.08 GAA and a shutout for Minnesota. Backup and former Shark Alex Stalock made 31 saves in the win over San Jose in December.