Sharks-Wild PreviewNov 2, 2010 - 1:07 AM
San Jose (5-3-1) at Minnesota (4-4-2), 8:00 p.m. EDT
After a rough start, the San Jose Sharks appear to have found their stride.
The visiting Sharks look for a third consecutive victory while trying to continue their recent dominance over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night.
San Jose (5-3-1) totaled nine goals during a 1-2-1 start but has since scored 20 times in winning four of five. The Sharks posted their second straight 5-2 win, Saturday against Anaheim.
"It was only a matter of time before we got our offense going," said captain Joe Thornton, who has three goals and five assists the last two games and tied a franchise mark by recording a point on each of the Sharks' last eight goals.
"Don't get used to it, though," Thornton said. "We're not going to score five goals every night. I think we were still shaking off the rust from earlier in the season."
The Sharks can credit the reunion of one of the NHL's top lines from last season for the recent turnaround.
Split up to start the season, Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau combined for 13 points in Wednesday's 5-2 win over New Jersey in their first game back on the same line. Heatley had two goals and an assist while Marleau added a goal Saturday as the line accounted for seven points.
Heatley has four goals the last four games after scoring once in his first five.
San Jose has converted a league-high 31.8 percent of its power-play chances, and is 3 for 9 with the man advantage over the last two contests.
"We feel pretty good about ourselves and now we can go out on our road trip," defenseman Niclas Wallin told the Sharks' official website.
The Sharks are in good position to continue their success with a stop Minnesota (4-4-2) to open a two-game trip.
San Jose has won five in a row over the Wild and is 13-0-2 since its last regulation loss in the series Oct. 21, 2006. The Sharks are 8-0-1 at Minnesota since last losing in regulation Oct. 19, 2005.
Thornton has three goals and two assists in his last four games versus Minnesota, while Heatley has seven goals and five assists in 10 games.
Antero Niittymaki, 3-0 with a 1.96 goals-against average versus Minnesota, could make his third straight start after stopping 22 shots against Anaheim. In his first season with San Jose, Niittymaki is 4-0-1 with a 1.87 GAA.
The Wild look to bounce back after a 3-1 loss to Chicago on Saturday dropped them to 1-1-1 on a five-game home stretch.
Marek Zidlicky scored his second of the season for the Wild, who have totaled six goals while losing three of four.
Though Minnesota ranks among the NHL leaders by converting 30.2 percent of its power-play chances, it is 1 for 16 in that area the last four games.
Minnesota's Mikko Koivu has a goal and five assists in his last six games but has been held without a point in his last four versus San Jose.
Niklas Backstrom, 4-3-2 with a 2.08 GAA, likely will be in goal for the Wild despite a 2-7-3 record and 3.19 GAA against the Sharks. He has allowed 15 goals while losing four in a row to San Jose - three of which were at home.
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