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Wild @ Sharks: Game preview, tale of the tape, projected lineups

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The Wild try to make it two wins in a row when they play in San Jose in a matinee.

Martin Jones has helped the Sharks get back in the playoff bubble, but Zach Parise can still solve him.
Martin Jones has helped the Sharks get back in the playoff bubble, but Zach Parise can still solve him.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Wild @ San Jose Sharks

3:00 PM Central
Watch on: Fox Sports-North, Fox Sports-Wisconsin
Listen on: KFAN 100.3 FM, Wild Radio Network, Wild.com
SBN Sharks Blog: Fear the Fin

Our long national nightmare is over! For now! After a 5-game losing streak which saw the Wild score just 4 goals, the Wild had a (relative) offensive breakout on Thursday, prevailing over the Los Angeles Kings 3-0. Not only did they have the three goals, the Wild also frustrated the best possession team in the league by blocking shot after shot after shot.

Getting one win is great. Takes the pressure of the losing stretch off, and going to LA and beating the Kings on a back-to-back isn't a cakewalk. If confidence is a valuable thing, then this game should be good for confidence-building.

But it isn't enough. This losing streak moved the Wild 10 points behind the St. Louis Blues, meaning that for now they're out of the running for one of the Central Division's 3 playoff berths. The Wild still hold the top Wild Card spot, but it's suddenly become very tight. Colorado won last night, moving them within one point of the Wild. Nashville's four points back, but all they need to go on a big run is to have Pekka Rinne re-gain his All-Star form. The playoffs are still quite miss-able if they don't solve their offensive issues.

The Wild will get a chance to re-gain some separation in the Wild Card race this afternoon, when they play the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks had a rough go last season, missing the playoffs on the non-strength of their goaltending. To fix that, they let Antti Niemi go and replaced him with Martin Jones. Jones has been quite solid for the Sharks, posting a .915 Sv% that would've been better if not for a rough December.

Before missing the playoffs last year, the Sharks had quite a run of contention. No Cups to show for it, but they made the playoffs 10 consecutive years, picking up a President's Trophy and three trips to the Conference Finals along the way. The faces of that franchise during that run have been Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. At age 36, they're not quite the players they once were, but they're still 3rd and 4th on the team in scoring.

Wild fans will be treated to something they haven't seen much of: A good power play. The Sharks have the third-highest conversion rate in the league. What makes it run? Old friend Brent Burns. The defenseman is second in the league in shots on goal with 196, and his dynamism is on full display with the man advantage, and he leads all blueliners in power play points. It's almost like it pays off when you have an offensively-gifted defender run the power play. Hmmmm...

After picking up his 2nd shutout of the year, Darcy Kuemper might draw the start again today. Is there a goalie controversy brewing? Probably not. Kuemper's been stellar since November, ranking 2nd in the NHL with a .942 Sv%. But you can't discount just how consistently well Dubnyk has been playing in that span (Dubnyk has a .928 mark in that stretch). Kuemper is definitely earning more playing time, and he might get 20-25 games in by the time the season ends, but Dubnyk is unquestionably the starter.

It's a matinee game today, so make sure to get inside by 3 PM Central. We've got the Tale of the Tape and Projected Lineups coming up.

Projected Lineups

Minnesota Wild

Left Wing

Center

Right Wing

Thomas Vanek

Mikko Koivu

Jason Zucker

Zach Parise

Mikael Granlund

Jason Pominville

Nino Niederreiter

Charlie Coyle

Justin Fontaine

Chris Porter

Faceoff Man

Erik Haula

Left Defensemen

Right Defensemen

Ryan Suter

Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella

Matt Dumba

Jonas Brodin

Nate Prosser

Goalies

Devan Dubnyk (Maybe)

Darcy Kuemper (Maybe)

San Jose Sharks

Left Wing

Center

Right Wing

Tomas Hertl

Joe Thornton

Joe Pavelski

Matthew Nieto

Patrick Marleau

Joel Ward

Joonas Donskoi

Logan Couture

Tommy Wingels

Melker Karlsson

Chris Tierney

Mike Brown

Left Defensemen

Right Defensemen

Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Justin Braun

Paul Martin

Brent Burns

Brenden Dillon

Dylan DeMelo

Goalies

Martin Jones

Alex Stalock