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Preview: Wild primed for good game against floundering Sharks

It’s all fun in the sun in San Jose.

San Jose Sharks v Minnesota Wild Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images

It’s the continuation of a California road trip as the Minnesota Wild faceoff against the San Jose Sharks after a resounding victory last night.

Sure, beating the last-in-the-league Anaheim Ducks this season isn’t particularly anything to write the press about, but winning the last six games sure is a comfortable place to be in the latter half of December. Sitting third in the Central Division is also a nice little holiday present for the Wild and we’d love to keep it that way by beating the Sharks in their home arena.

Wild at Sharks

When: 9:30 p.m. CT
Where: SAP Center
TV: BSN, BSWI, TSN5
Radio: KFAN 100.3 FM

When the Wild and the Sharks last met on Nov. 13, it was a very different time. The Wild were still in their beginning of the season slump, the Sharks were looking promising with some good offense, and the Sharks won it in a shootout. Now, of course, the Sharks have dropped to the bottom third of the standings and are on a three loss streak.

Erik Karlsson had a heck of a November and currently leads the Sharks in points, but has slowed down in the past few games. Of course, slowing down means about a point per game in his bid for a third Norris Trophy, which makes him one of the most dangerous players for Minnesota tonight. Timo Meier is also one to watch out for with nine points in eight games.

The Sharks currently have the second-best penalty kill, right behind the Boston Bruins, which is a little worrying for a team like the Wild that likes to score, and score often, on the powerplay. We’re predicting the special teams will be what makes or breaks this game for both.

Anything can happen in hockey, so we can’t promise that it’ll be a nice little win for the Wild tonight, but we’re certainly hoping it works out that way.

Projected Wild lineup

Kirill Kaprizov — Sam Steel — Mats Zuccarello
Ryan Hartman — Frederick Gaudreau — Matt Boldy
Jordan Greenway — Joel Eriksson Ek — Mark Foligno
Mason Shaw — Connor Dewar — Ryan Reaves

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

Filip Gustavsson will start in net.

If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. While these lines aren’t confirmed yet, they worked so well against the Ducks that we’re pretty comfortable assuming that’s how they’ll roll again.

Sam Steel is really beginning to thrive as the top line center, but it’s not hard when you’ve got Kaprizov and Zuccarello as your wingers. They’ve quietly become one of the best lines in hockey this season and you can almost always count on them to do something fun and showstopping. Only the best from the NHL’s third star of the week, Mats Zuccarello.

Brandon Duhaime is the only player out on IR, still, with an upper-body injury.

Projected Sharks lineup

Timo Meier — Nick Bonino — Kevin Labanc
Matthew Nieto — Logan Couture — Alexander Barabanov
Noah Gregor — Nico Sturm — Evgeny Svechnikov
Jonah Gadjovich — Steven Lorentz — Oskar Lindblom

Scott Harrington — Erik Karlsson
Marc-Edouard Vlasic — Matt Benning
Mario Ferraro — Radim Simek

James Reimer is expected to be the starting goalie for the Sharks.

The Sharks’ forward depth have been hurting recently, with Luke Kunin out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL and Tomas Hertl suspended two games for high-sticking. Take these projections with a grain of salt, as we can probably assume the lines will go through a blender trying to go toe-to-toe with the Wild’s high-producing top line.

We’re going for seven straight, and the outlook is good for tonight. We’re trying not to be too cocky, just in case, but we’re feeling pretty confident in the Wild, for better or for worse.

Puck drops at 9:30 p.m. CT.

Burning Questions

Mats Zuccarello new point streak?

Sadly, Zuccarello’s ten-game point streak ended last night, despite the win against the Ducks. It happens to the best of ‘em, and the question now is not if he’ll go on another tear, but when and for how long. Will he get one tonight to start the count over?

Will Ryan Reaves reignite his old grudge against San Jose?

Back when he played for the Vegas Golden Knights, Reaves was a thorn in the Sharks’ side with 99 penalty minutes. It cooled a little when he left the division, but will tonight’s game start the rivalry up again?

Special teams on display?

We’re interested to see how the Wild’s powerplay units do against the Sharks’ stellar penalty killers. Will they be able to crack the PK and score, or will the second-best in the league come out on top?