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After a huge road trip, the Wild seeks to avoid a letdown as it takes on the Sharks

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After picking up six points on the East Coast, Minnesota welcomes a suddenly struggling San Jose team in its last game before tomorrow’s trade deadline.

NHL: Minnesota Wild at San Jose Sharks Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

MINNESOTA WILD VS SAN JOSE SHARKS
7:00PM Central, Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minnesota
TV: Fox Sports-North
Radio: KFAN 100.3 and affiliates
Streaming: Fox Sports Go app

Well, that was a decent road trip by the Wild, wasn’t it? After two gigantic wins against the Islanders and Devils in their respective buildings, the narrative definitely seemed to read that—as a Minnesota sports team—our boys would go into Madison Square Garden and lay an egg against a club that appears to be intentionally self destructing. But Bruce Boudreau prepared the troops effectively, and the Wild came out in Manhattan and simply took care of business against a bad squad.

The trip was a huge six-point swing that pushed Minnesota into the top three in the Central Division, a goal that we’ve all been longing to see this team achieve throughout this roller coaster of a campaign. It’s such a huge spot to take over, because battling to keep third place means the Green ‘n’ Wheats are simply trying to stay ahead of teams in their own division, as opposed to teams in the Central and the Pacific. Dallas lost in Winnipeg yesterday, so another win by the Wild today would give it a three-point cushion over the Stars.

Now the Wild has to guard against the “first game back from a road trip” blues, as the hungry Sharks come to town, smelling blood in the water (just some casual shark-related wordplay for you there).

SAN JOSE SHARKS

The Sharks are back in second place in the Pacific, but things have gone a little sideways for them very recently. They lost 7-1 in Nashville on Thursday and followed that up with a 3-1 loss against a shockingly bad team in Chicago on Friday. San Jose is now 5-5-0 in its last ten games and holds just a one-point cushion in the standings over both the Ducks and the Flames.

After a slow start to the season, former Wild standout Brent Burns has returned to form as one of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL. The bearded/toothless wonder is now back to leading his team in scoring with 51 points on the season, good for second in the league among blueliners behind only John Klingberg.

When the Wild and Sharks played at SAP Center in December, Minnesota jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second period. But as its players paraded to the penalty box in the third, Burns completely took over and led a furious charge to get the Sharks back in the game. They came very close to winning it in regulation too, but Alex Stalock stood on his head against his former team to push the game to overtime, where Nino Niederreiter won it for the Wild. Burns is the ultimate x-factor, practically impossible to check against, because of the fact that he brings his offensive talents from the blueline. He’s like a mobile quarterback in football in the sense that there simply isn’t a position player on the ice whose job is normally to guard a guy like that.

Aside from the defending Norris Trophy winner, San Jose is getting big production once again from Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski. It was also enjoying a solid bounce-back campaign by the ageless Joe Thornton, but Jumbo is questionable to return this season after he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in January. Just for funzies, here’s Thornton’s shirtless bobblehead—which was distributed earlier this season—as well as the viral picture that inspired it.

virilebeard.com

STORYLINES

One has to feel a little bad for those Wild fans who attended MSG on Friday and opted to throw their hats on the ice when Mikael Granlund was credited with his third marker of the game. For those of us watching from the comfort our own couches, it was clear as day that his second goal actually belonged to Eric Staal. But the official scorers for some reason waited until after Granlund allegedly completed the hat trick in the third period before changing their minds about the second goal. On the bright side for those who ditched their lids, I’m sure they were donated to a good cause.

Regardless, Granlund and Staal each earned four points in the game against the Rangers, and both looked incredible skating alongside one another. Staal is now just one goal away from 30 on the season, and two points away from 60. He remains a decent free agent signing by Chuck Fletcher two offseasons ago. Let’s see if those two can build some chemistry and stick together for a bit in Boudreau’s ever-twirling carousel of forward lines.

Today marks the final game for both the Wild and Sharks before tomorrow’s trade deadline. Michael Russo had a good primer in The Athletic, so give that a read if you can get through the paywall. After seeing what happened to the Wild after it sold the farm to rent Martin Hanzal last season, I personally would hope for a small move to add offensive depth. Moving one of the team’s young defensemen makes all the sense in the world to me. For chemistry purposes, I would prefer that Minnesota keeps Charlie Coyle and Chris Stewart (his teammates love him) if at all possible. Chris Stewart was placed on waivers this morning. We’ll see what happens there.

INJURIES

Still no Jonas Brodin, though Fletcher said in that same Russo article above that he hopes the Swede will be back next week.

For the Sharks, Thornton and Joel Ward are on the shelf, as per Rotoworld.

The Gamethread will post at 6:30PM Central, so swing on by! Below are the projected lineups, thanks to DailyFaceoff.com. Thanks for reading!