The Minnesota Wild look to continue to play strong defense when they visit the San Jose Sharks on Thursday in pursuit of their seventh straight victory.
The Wild enter Thursday’s action in first place in the Western Conference. Another victory would give the Wild the third-longest winning streak in franchise history.
Minnesota has outscored opponents, 32-13, over that seven-game stretch, even though the Wild have been outshot by a 246-243 margin. The key has been a bend-but-don’t-break approach on defense, plus some outstanding goaltending along the way.
In Tuesday’s 4-1 victory over the Oilers, the Edmonton offense held a 39-26 advantage in shots, but Cam Talbot made 38 saves and didn’t face too many scrambles in front of his net.
“They’re going to get shots, right? And to not give those second and third gritty ones to them …. it’s that second, third one (that hurt),” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “Not only did Cam do a good job of smothering, but our D and the low forward, we got pucks the heck out of that area so (the Oilers) didn’t have more opportunities like that.”
Both the defensive efforts and the Wild’s winning streak have come while defenseman Jared Spurgeon has been sidelined with a lower-body injury. Spurgeon could be ready to return on Thursday after an eight-game absence.
The Wild held the Oilers’ league-best power play scoreless on five chances. After a slow start to the season, Minnesota’s penalty-kill unit has allowed only six goals on 50 opposing power plays over the team’s last 16 games.
San Jose’s penalty killers have been a consistent strength, and they delivered a perfect 3-for-3 performance in Tuesday’s 5-3 win over the Calgary Flames. This helped the Sharks pull off the comeback after trailing the Flames 3-1 through 30 minutes.
After consecutive road losses to the New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets, the Sharks began their seven-game homestand with what captain Logan Couture felt was a necessary win.
“Feels good right now after a tough end to our road trip there,” said Couture, who had a goal and two assists against Calgary. “Both games that we lost on the road trip, we had a sour taste left in our mouths. So down 3-1, it could have gone either way there, and I’m glad we stuck with it.”
Adin Hill stopped 40 of 43 shots in his fourth consecutive start. Regular goalie James Reimer has been “run down and not feeling 100 percent,” according to coach Bob Boughner, though Reimer could be available to get back on the ice against the Wild.
Talbot is expected to start again for Minnesota, looking to continue one of the hottest stretches of his career. Talbot is 5-0-0 with a .951 save percentage and a 1.74 goals-against average over his last five games.
Minnesota forward Kirill Kaprizov has 19 points (six goals, 13 assists) over his last 10 games, and is riding a career-best six-game points streak.
Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson has eight points (four goals, four assists) in his last eight games.
Thursday’s game is the second of three regular-season meetings between the two teams. The Sharks recorded a 4-1 road victory over the Wild on Nov. 16.
–Field Level Media