Get your game notes: Sharks at Wild

4 Comments

Today on NBC, it’s the Minnesota Wild hosting the San Jose Sharks at 8 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• Despite the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul being located more than 2,000 miles away from the SAP Center in San Jose, the Sharks were essentially born from the Minnesota North Stars franchise. Original owners George and Gordon Gund sold the North Stars in exchange for rights to an NHL expansion team in the Bay Area.

• San Jose is in the middle of a 3-game road trip, having played last night at WPG (3-2 win) and closing out the stretch at St. Louis on Thursday.

• Last night, Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored the game winner with 4.5 seconds left in the 3rd.

• This goal at 19:55 was the 2nd-latest regulation game-winning goal in Sharks history. (Jonathan Cheechoo scored at 19:56 in a 5-4 win vs. LA in 2005).

• SJ has gone 3-3-0 in the 2nd half of back-to-back games this season but has never swept both games of its back-to-backs.

• SJ has won 2 of its last 3 since dropping 3 straight before that.

• Minnesota is also a team in search of collecting wins. The Wild, despite splitting their last 4 games (2-2-0), have lost 7 of their last 9 (2-4-3), giving up an average of 4.00 goals per game during this stretch.

• MIN is coming off a 7-1 defeat in Dallas against the Stars on Saturday, by most accounts their worst loss all season:

• The 7 goals was the most given up by MIN all season.

• The 6-goal loss was the largest margin of defeat for MIN all season and the biggest lost since Mar. 6, 2012 at Colorado (also a 7-1 loss).

• Darcy Kuemper gave up 4 goals on 21 shots before being pulled in the middle of the 2nd…Niklas Backstrom allowed 3 goals on 14 shots the rest of the way.

SHARKS WITHOUT JUMBO JOE:

• Sharks captain Joe Thornton will miss his 3rd straight game tonight with an upper-body injury. Thornton was placed on IR on Sunday after he was injured on a hit at ANA on Wednesday. His status is day-to-day.

• Since joining the Sharks in the middle of the 2005-06 season, Thornton has missed only 7 games, having played in SJ’s other 713 regular-season games since then and also all of the Sharks’ 97 playoff games since 2005-06.

• Thornton’s streak of 319 consecutive GP was snapped when he missed Saturday’s game vs. STL.

• Thornton is t-2nd on the team with 33 points (Joe Pavelski – 35) and leads the team with 24 assists… Thornton had played well lately, boasting 5 points (1G-4A) during a personal 5-game point streak and 11 points (2G-9A) in his last 9 games.

• Thornton has fared well against MIN in his career: 36 points (11G-25A) in 38 GP – more points than any other player on the Sharks roster – including 34 points in 33 GP against MIN as a member of the SJ.

HEAD TO HEAD

• Teams have split thus far, with the home team winning each game…

• Oct. 30 at MIN: MIN def. SJ 4-3 (SO).

• Kyle Brodziak scored twice for the Wild

• MIN outshot SJ 46-28

• Jason Pominville netted the shootout winner in the 3rd roun

• Dec. 11 at SJ: SJ def. MIN 2-1.

• Christian Folin scored 1:03 into the 3rd to tie the game at 1 for MIN…but Joe Pavelski scored the game-winner 45 seconds later to give SJ the win.

• MIN Home Winning Streak vs. SJ: MIN is riding a 7-game home win streak vs. SJ dating back to the 2010-11 season.

• MIN last lost at home to SJ on Apr. 2, 2010, a 3-2 win by the Sharks.

SHARKS TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Joe Pavelski leads the team in goals (20 – 5th in NHL) and points (35). He tallied 2 assists last night and has 3G-2A during a 3-game point streak. He also has 15 points (10G-5A) in his last 14 games.

• Pavelski’s 10 power-play goals lead the NHL.

• The 9-year vet, who has spent his entire career with SJ, is coming off a career year in which he set personal highs in goals (41) and points (79).

• Patrick Marleau, despite being one of 6 Shark skaters with 20+ points this season (28), has been in a 12-game goal slump and has just 4 assists during this stretch – although he did record a helper last night.

• Marleau ranks 2nd on the team in assists with 21.

• Marleau has faced MIN 52 times in his career, tallying 35 points (18G-17A) in those games.

• Defenseman Brent Burns is one of 3 Sharks with 10+ goals this season and leads all Shark d-men in goals (11 – 3rd on team) and assists (20 – 3rd on team).

• Burns totaled 1G-1A last night and now has 1G-3A during a 3-game point streak.

• Burns ranks 3rd among NHL d-men in points (31) and leads the league lead among d-men in goals (11).

• Burns leads the team in TOI/game (23:42) but does have a -7 rating on the season (t-worst on the team).

• Burns was drafted by MIN back in 2003 (1st round – 20th overall) and played from 2003-2011 with the Wild (183 points in 453 games) before being traded to SJ in June 2011.

• Logan Couture is one of 3 Sharks (along with Thornton and Pavelski) with 30+ points this season, boasting 14G-19A (33 poitns). Couture registered his 10th multi-point game of the season last night (2 assists)

• SJ is 8-2-0 this season when Couture has 2+ points.

• Couture’s 14 goals are 2nd on the team.

• John Scott returned from suspension last night (0 points in 4:48 TOI) after missing the last 4 games for punching Tim Jackman of ANA on Dec. 22.

WILD TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Zach Parise leads the Wild in points (30) and is tied for the team lead in goals (14 – with Nino Niederreiter).

• Parise had an assist against DAL in MIN’s last game and has 7 points (3G-4A) in his last 7 games.

• Jason Pominville is 2nd on the team in points (28) and assists (20)…Pominville has 8 points (2G-6A) in his last 8 games.

• Pominville led the team in goals (30) and points (60) last season.

• Thomas Vanek is 3rd on the team in points (24) and now has 7 goals after finding the back of the net against DAL. Vanek has 10 points (5G-5A) in his last 12 games. Vanek is in his first season in Minnesota (signed in the offseason) has scored 20+ goals and totaled 40+ points in each of his 9 seasons in the league.

• Ryan Suter leads the league in time on ice/game (29:29) after leading the league in this category the past two seasons. Suter is 4th on the team in points (22) and 1st in assists (21 – t-5th in NHL among d-men).

• Suter has gone without a point in his last 5 games and scored his only goal in MIN’s season opener against COL on Oct. 9.

• Nino Niederreiter is tied for the team lead in goals (14) but has gone the last 8 games without one and has 0 points in 5 career games against the Sharks.

• Niederreiter has 18 points this season (played in all 37 games) – halfway to his career high of 36 set last season (in 81 GP) – and has already tied his goal total from a season ago in 44 fewer games.

• Darcy Kuemper is coming off a 4-goals-allowed-on-21-shots outing in Saturday’s loss at Dallas. The Wild goaltender had a strong start to the season but has struggled in net since Nov. 22.

• Kuemper started both games against SJ this season, allowing 3 goals in the October-win and 2 goals in the December-loss.

NHL on NBCSN: Wild hope to rise from ‘rock bottom’ against Sharks

10 Comments

NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Minnesota Wild host the San Jose Sharks at the Xcel Energy Center at 8:00 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

The Minnesota Wild hope to climb up from “rock bottom” as they host the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.

That 7-1 loss to the Dallas Stars was devastating, but in some ways, they’re set up nicely to bounce back. As tough an out as the Sharks are, they’re playing without former captain Joe Thornton and may be a little fatigued coming off of last night’s buzzer-beating win against the Winnipeg Jets.

Really, the tension could really rise if Minnestoa doesn’t begin to figure things out.

This begins a three-game homestand for the Wild with playoff-caliber opponents on the docket in San Jose today, Chicago on Thursday and Nashville on Saturday.

That’s a tough slate, yet such games (and matches against opponents closing off back-to-back sets, in general) are challenges that legitimate playoff teams must meet. As of this writing, the Wild are slipping out of playoff contention with an 18-15-4 record (40 standings points, seven behind final wild card holder Winnipeg, as well as San Jose). These are the kind of games that may help trigger a turnaround or accelerate a downfall.

On the bright side for the Wild, they’ve dominated the Sharks at home lately, winning the last seven games between the two teams in Minnesota.

One would think that Alex Stalock will play for San Jose after Antti Niemi started last night, but we’ll see. The Wild’s goaltending situation has been worrisome whether it’s been Darcy Kuemper or Niklas Backstrom in net.

The Sharks have the makings for a tough test for the Wild, but then again, isn’t that usually the case in the rugged West?

Poll: Are the Preds legit Stanley Cup contenders?

38 Comments

The Nashville Predators are one of the big surprise teams of the 2014-15 NHL season.

Probably the biggest, actually.

Even with a healthy Pekka Rinne in goal and Norris Trophy candidate Shea Weber on the blue line, we can’t recall anyone who predicted the Preds would be 25-9-4 after 38 games, good for the highest points percentage in the NHL.

In fact, prior to the season, online sportsbook Bovada set Nashville’s point total at just 76.5. To fall short of that now, the Preds would need to finish something like 12-31-1. That’s how good they’ve been, relative to expectations.

So, with a spot in the playoffs seeming all but assured, the question is begging to be asked — do the Preds have what it takes to win it all?

The argument for ‘Yes’

Nashville has the second-best goals-against average in the NHL. And if there’s one thing that recent Stanley Cup winners have shown us, it’s that defense wins championships.

Goals against of past six Stanley Cup champs
2013-14 Kings (1st, 2.05)
2012-13 Blackhawks (1st, 2.02)
2011-12 Kings (2nd, 2.07)
2010-11 Bruins (2nd, 2.30)
2009-10 Blackhawks (6th, 2.48)

And as the Preds showed this weekend, they can also put the puck in the net. Nashville’s offense is now tied for seventh in the league, averaging 2.95 goals per game. Five-on-five, no team has a higher goals for/against ratio than the Preds, at 1.47.

The argument for ‘No’

It’s more of a subjective one. No matter how good Nashville’s numbers look right now, and no matter how much talent they have in goal and on the back end, can a team really win the Stanley Cup with Mike Ribeiro as its first-line center? Because that’s who it is for the Preds — the 34-year-old who signed for peanuts after he got bought out by the Coyotes due to “behavioral issues” and has never entered the conversation when debating the truly elite centers in hockey.

That conversation has been limited to the likes of Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Patrice Bergeron, Joe Thornton, and Anze Kopitar. You know, players that have won Stanley Cups. Or Hart Trophies. Or Selke Trophies. Or Conn Smythe Trophies.

Go ahead and search the list. Try to find a team that’s won the Stanley Cup without a top center with some serious credentials. You won’t find many.

Time to vote!

With Thornton hurt, Sharks say slumping Marleau ‘has to find a way to produce’

3 Comments

With his club mired in one of its worst stretches of the season, San Jose head coach Todd McLellan is prodding the longest-tenured Shark to pick up the pace.

Patrick Marleau — pointless in nine games, with just one goal in his last 17 — has been asked to start producing with more regularity, especially with co-leading scorer Joe Thornton (upper body) shelved.

“There’s two ways of dealing with it. There’s getting down and wallowing in it, or pushing forward and being direct and finding a way to get it done,” McLellan said, per the San Jose Mercury News. “I think Patty will take the second approach. He has in the past.

“But there’s no doubt that for us to have success, especially with some of the injuries, that he has to find a way to produce.”

The Sharks are 1-3-1 in their last five, mitigated by the fact they went 5-0-0 in the five games prior. Still, their latest issues go beyond their record; San Jose’s offense has fallen off a cliff lately, with just nine goals and a power play that’s gone two for its last 22.

For Marleau, putting pucks in the net has become a problem. The seven-time 30-goal scorer is on pace for just 15 this year and his .18 goals-per-game average is his lowest since breaking into the NHL as an 18-year-old in ’97-98.

Now 35, Marleau admitted the slump is starting to get at him — but also said the opportunities to score were there.

“I’ve been getting tons of chances, and it’s frustrating that they haven’t been going in,” he explained. “One thing that I’ve learned over the years is that you just have to keep working for that next opportunity, and sometimes they just go in a ton at once.”

After Sharks’ blowout loss without Joe Thornton, he’s heading to IR

7 Comments

For the first time in 319 games, the San Jose Sharks had to play without Joe Thornton on Saturday and they suffered a 7-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues. They’ll have to bounce back without the star forward and their former captain though as Thornton has been placed on the injured reserve list.

The move is presumably retroactive to Dec. 31, but that still rules Thornton out for Monday and Tuesday’s contests. Sharks coach Todd McLellan previously described Thornton as day-to-day and an earlier report from the San Jose Mercury News suggested that it’s Thornton’s shoulder that’s bothering him.

Thornton has nine goals and 33 points in 38 contests in 2014-15. The 35-year-old hasn’t recorded fewer than 70 points in a non-lockout season since he had 68 points in 66 contests in 2001-2002.

San Jose also announced that they have called up forward Micheal Haley.