With a month left in the NHL regular season, the Minnesota Wild find themselves in a good position thanks to some good ol’ home cooking and power-play success.
Friday night in St. Paul, Minn., the Wild will host the San Jose Sharks in the first of back-to-back games at between West Division opponents.
When the puck drops against the Sharks, Minnesota will sit comfortably in third place in the division — seven points behind Vegas and nine ahead of St. Louis, which holds a one-point advantage over fifth-place Arizona for the last playoff spot.
Despite being a modest 2-2-1 against San Jose, the Wild own a superb 15-4-0 record on home ice and have been victorious in 13 of their last 14 games there.
Their only loss in that span, which stretches back to Jan. 31, is a 5-4 defeat against first-place Colorado on April 5.
The Wild’s power play has been lights out, too, clicking at 12 of 24 over the last seven games and connecting on 14 of 35 in Minnesota’s past 12.
In Wednesday afternoon’s 5-2 home victory over Arizona, Mats Zuccarello tallied twice, and Nick Bonino netted a goal as Minnesota went 3-for-3 on the man advantage.
“(As) the season is coming down the stretch here, it’s important that we take advantage of that,” said Zuccarello, who scored for the first time this season on the power play.
Skating on a line with left winger Jordan Greenway and center Joel Eriksson Ek, right winger Marcus Foligno returned after missing 15 games and logged 14:30 of ice time.
Meanwhile, the Sharks are pushing hard to try to slide into a playoff spot, but they did themselves no favors at all against the Anaheim Ducks this week.
On Wednesday, San Jose ran into hot goalie Anthony Stolarz for the second time in the three days, and the result was remarkably similar to Monday’s match.
Making only his 20th and 21st NHL starts, Stolarz was stellar in a 46-save, 4-0 shutout and followed that by stopping 27 of 28 San Jose shots in the second game as the Sharks closed out a five-game homestand by losing for the fourth time in five tries (1-4-0).
Down 3-0 against Anaheim on Wednesday, San Jose notched its only goal when standout defenseman Erik Karlsson potted his fifth marker in a 6-on-5 situation with just over two minutes remaining.
However, Sharks coach Bob Boughner was critical of a gaffe by his two-time Norris Trophy-winning blueliner, who attempted a pass between his legs that was intercepted by Troy Terry and led to Ryan Getzlaf’s goal to open the scoring.
“Without picking on one guy or another, but if you ask Karlsson, he’ll tell you he’s better than that,” Boughner said. “We have to make better decisions with the puck, and he’s guilty of that.”
However, the Sharks can look to the fact that they have beaten Minnesota three times in five games (3-2-0), including a 5-3 win in the Twin Cities on Jan. 24.
“There’s a lot of hockey left, and we’re still in the hunt,” Sharks center Tomas Hertl said. “We know we can beat Minnesota. We’ve done it before.”
San Jose forward Patrick Marleau is just two games away from tying Gordie Howe’s NHL record of 1,767 games played.
–Field Level Media