Preview: Wild vs. Sharks
Minnesota hired Mike Yeo 12 1/2 months before committing $196 million to Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, with all three moves signaling that the Wild were prepared to do whatever was necessary to contend for the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.
Instead, Minnesota hasn’t been able to get past the second round of the playoffs the last two seasons, and with the club currently sitting in sixth place in the Central Division, Yeo could be on the hot seat.
The Wild seek just their third victory in 10 tries while looking to win an eighth straight home meeting with the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night.
Minnesota (18-15-4) has gone 2-4-3 over its last nine, with that stretch hitting a low point with Saturday’s 7-1 loss at Dallas. Though no one from the club has suggested that Yeo’s job is in jeopardy, the underachieving isn’t sitting well.
"It’s not fun," said Parise, who assisted on Thomas Vanek’s power-play goal against the Stars. "It’s embarrassing. We’ve got a lot of players that individually need to be a lot better. I won’t hide from that. I know that I haven’t played well the last little stretch and that’s the only way we’ll snap out of this. (These are) just goals you can’t give up this time of year, just can’t do it."
The Wild are hoping a three-game homestand can help them get back on track. They ended a four-game home losing streak with Friday’s 3-1 win over Toronto.
"The biggest thing is we have to stick together," Suter said. "We just have to play."
Minnesota hasn’t lost to the Sharks at home since April 2, 2010. It won the first meeting this season 4-3 in a shootout Oct. 30 at home after Kyle Brodziak scored twice in the third to tie it, then fell 2-1 in San Jose on Dec. 11.
The Sharks (21-14-5) will be without center Joe Thornton, who will miss a third consecutive game with an upper-body injury after playing 319 straight. They had lost four of five before Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s goal with 4.5 seconds left in the third period gave them a 3-2 win over Winnipeg on Monday.
Brent Burns and Melker Karlsson also scored.
"We couldn’t be happier to get the win and fix what was broken," coach Todd McLellan said. "We needed to get back on track. We needed to become the competitive group that we can be, and for the most part we got that. To get the reward at the end of the night was icing on the cake, and now we have to keep that recipe going."
Antti Niemi made 17 saves, leaving the strong possibility that Alex Stalock will be in net to complete the back-to-back set. Stalock relieved Niemi in the third period of Saturday’s 7-2 loss to St. Louis.
Stalock made 18 saves last month to beat the Wild, then lost 3-1 in his most recent start to Vancouver last Tuesday.
"(Tuesday) is another day, and we can’t be like a yo-yo, up and down all the time," McLellan said. "We’ve got to find some consistency."
Darcy Kuemper was pulled after allowing four goals against Dallas while starting on back-to-back nights for the Wild. Niklas Backstrom allowed three goals on 14 shots in relief in his first action since being activated from injured reserve.
Backstrom has allowed 12 goals while losing three straight outings against the Sharks.