The Wild traveled to San Jose to take on the Sharks at 9:30 PM tonight.
The Wild enter the game continuing to surge, having won 8 of their last 11, including road wins against Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Nashville. Even better, Parise still feels good after playing 19 minutes in Chicago, and will be taking the ice with the Wild again tonight. Expect Darcy Kuemper in net tonight, as he's been incredibly hot, almost getting a shutout in Thursday's game against Chicago, and sporting a .946 Sv% since being recalled. My guess is a meteor has to hit him to prevent his starting tonight.
But you already know a lot about the Wild. San Jose has been pretty hot, too, winning their last 5 games, their last one a 1-0 shutout. But the big news in San Jose comes from the fact that stars Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have signed extensions that have put an end to their impending free agency and will keep them in San Jose for the next three years. They've done an excellent job of keeping their core players together, and having both Thornton and Marleau around means they don't have to worry about setting aside their Cup aspirations anytime soon.
And make no mistake, despite being fourth place in the West, the Sharks are legitimate Cup contenders. They're Top-5 in the NHL in points, scoring, goals allowed, and possession. Even with Logan Couture, one of the best young players in the league, and star rookie Tomas Hertl out, they've still got three players in the league's top-20 in points in Thornton (1st in assists, 6th in points), Joe Pavelski (2nd in goals, T-11th in points), and Patrick Marleau (T-19th in points). In addition to that, their defense is solid, as is their goaltending, led by Antti Niemi, with former UMD netminder Alex Stalock backing him up. Stalock is also riding a shutout streak that may force his way into the net tonight.
What's always fun about these games against the Sharks is seeing old faces. However, since Martin Havlat is injured, and James Sheppard was scratched against Winnipeg, it's possible the only former Wild we'll see is Brent Burns, who is having himself a nice season on Thornton's wing.
A win or loss tonight won't shake up the standings by any means, but it would keep pace over Phoenix and Dallas, both of whom have won their most recent games. Furthermore, a win for the Wild after defeating Chicago would be a statement game, as there are plenty of doubts as to the Wild's chances in a playoff series against the top teams in the West.
This will be the last meeting of these two teams in the regular season, with each team winning a home game against the other by a score of 3-1.
Enjoy the game, Wilderness! You can catch it on FS-North and FS-WI, as well as on the radio (KFAN affiliates) and the Wild's website. Stay tuned later for our game thread, and game recap!
Other games to watch, and who to root for:
Colorado @ Tampa Bay (7:30)
Pittsburgh @ Dallas (7:30)
Anaheim @ Los Angeles (8:30)