You hate saying that a game in early January is a “must win” game for anyone, but that’s how it shapes up tonight for the Minnesota Wild.
Coming into tonight’s game against the Sharks (7:30 p.m. ET), the Wild have lost 11 of their last 12 games and have gone from being media darlings on top of the Western Conference to eighth in the conference and hanging on to a playoff spot by a thread. While defense and goaltending was keeping them on the winning side of things, things have cooled off considerably and the Wild’s poor offense is catching up to them.
Guys like Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, and Devin Setoguchi haven’t generated the sort of offense the Wild were hoping they would and Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding can only win so many 1-0 or 2-1 games on their own. Having to deal with the Sharks tonight won’t make life any easier.
San Jose comes in as the polar opposite of Minnesota winners of 8 out of their last 10 games. Antti Niemi is playing a special brand of goaltending that’s keeping opponents frustrated to no end all while the offense cruises. Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, and Logan Couture are all at it again scoring goals and points in bunches bringing the Sharks to the top of the Pacific Division.
The Sharks might just be playing their best hockey of the year while the Wild are in in a horrible slide. That sounds like a recipe for bad things to happen to the Wild tonight. After a summer that saw these two teams entangled together thanks to three separate trades, their fortunes couldn’t be headed in more opposite directions.