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Preview: Wild host Sharks in big Minnesota reunion

A pretty bad San Jose team is in St. Paul.

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San Jose Sharks v Minnesota Wild Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

The San Jose Sharks are coming to town to face the Minnesota Wild are there are a whole lot of familiar faces that are going to be stepping on to the ice of The X this evening.

Wild vs. Sharks

When: 5:00 p.m. CT
Where: Xcel Energy Center
TV: BSN, BSWI, NBCSCA
Radio: KFAN 100.3 FM

Like a big and forced family reunion, the Sharks’ lineup will feature names that have just recently departed Minnesota for sunnier skies and nicer weather in Northern California. After his trade to the Colorado Avalanche last year, Nico Sturm signed a long-term contract in San Jose; the Sharks acquired Luke Kunin from the Nashville Predators this summer; Nick Bonino chose to play for the visiting team in his twilight years; and, of course, due to the trade that happened at last season’s deadline, goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen is back in St. Paul.

Just a whole bunch of dudes that have played decent roles for the Wild through the last few years, have found themselves in San Jose and are playing their former team tonight. Unfortunately for them, the team that they are on currently, stinks. The Sharks sit near the bottom of the league, with a 4-9-3 and have the fourth-worst goal differential among all 32 teams with a minus-14. They’re just, ah, not good.

The Sharks have some decent players at the top of their lineup — we’ll get to that — but the depth is worrisome and without the stability of having the Wild’s system to rely on, those former depth players are getting exposed and are simply just hanging out in the NHL on a team that wants to have good odds in the upcoming draft lottery.

With that, it’s a perfect time for the Wild to secure some points. While they have recently been able to take advantage of playing bad teams like the Anaheim Ducks and Montreal Canadiens to boost the ego and confidence, getting a win over the Sharks should at least propel them to feeling good as they approach a deadly series of games for the next couple of weeks. After hosting the Sharks and visiting the Nashville Predators, the Wild return home to try and get as many points as they can against an onslaught of visitors. The Pittsburgh Penguins, Carolina Hurricanes, Winnipeg Jets, Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Edmonton Oilers are coming to St. Paul in the next two weeks and that is a hell of a slate of games to try and pry some points from.

Of course, Minnesota is still a good hockey team and any team can beat any team in this league, but that is a stretch that can define the first half of this season.

Anyways, let’s just focus on what’s right in front of us.

Projected Wild lineup

Kirill Kaprizov — Frederick Gaudreau — Mats Zuccarello
Matt Boldy — Joel Eriksson Ek — Marcus Foligno
Connor Dewar — Marco Rossi — Mason Shaw
Adam Beckman — Sam Steel — Joseph Cramarossa

Jake Middleton — Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin — Matt Dumba
Jon Merrill — Calen Addison

With games evenly spaced out through the next week or so, it makes sense to hand Filip Gustavsson the reins this evening, considering the upcoming opponents. So, head coach Dean Evason is doing exactly that.

Tyson Jost may or may not play tonight after being a healthy scratch for two games in a row, but we do know that both Adam Beckman and Joseph Cramarossa have played well enough to keep their spots. The second line debuted against the Seattle Kraken on Friday and had a terrible time — allowing 12 shot attempts compared to the four that they made in the 8:21 TOI — but on-paper it makes total sense and hopefully they can have a good showing tonight. Other than that, it’s the same old, same old.

Projected Sharks lineup

Timo Meier — Tomas Hertl — Kevin Labanc
Matthew Nieto — Logan Couture — Alexander Barabanov
Oskar Lindblom — Nico Sturm — Luke Kunin
Evgeny Svechnikov — Nick Bonino — Steven Lorentz

Jaycob Megna — Erik Karlsson
Matt Benning — Mario Ferraro
Marc-Edouard Vlasic — Radim Simek

James Reimer is going to be starting for the visitors, with the familiar Kaapo Kahkonen on the bench.

Look at those former Wild players ... and a bunch of hockey players that sure are playing on a very bad team. Like we mentioned above, the top of the lineup still works; Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl are close to a point-per-game this season, but I would be wrong to not spill some ink on a renaissance.

Erik Karlsson is leading all NHL defensemen in scoring with 21 points in his first 16 games, and casually has 10 goals already. That’s the same amount that Kirill Kaprizov has currently. He is just running through the entire league and as a neutral observer so far this season, it’s been incredible to watch him come back and remind folks just how dominant he once was and still can be. But still, it takes 20 skaters to have a good team and beyond those handful of guys, it’s a whole lot of nothing.

Hopefully the Wild’s depth can have a feast tonight.

Puck drop is at 5:00 p.m.

Burning Questions

Will we get a goal from the second line?

Again, as we mentioned, theoretically that line looks like it can dominate. Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno are back at full health together and can be the one-two two-way punch that all love, and adding someone like Matt Boldy to the line just makes it feel that scoring chances will rain like manna from heaven. Hopefully that is the case tonight and one of the three (or all three, that would be cool) gets the red light.

Can the Wild keep the returnees off the score sheet?

There will be a lot of familiar faces on the ice at The X wearing teal, and we know that it is just so typical for a player to score a big goal against their former team, but can Minnesota just not do that tonight? It is not like either of the three skaters are known to be big scorers either, so it would just be nice to blank them.