Sharks vs. Wild Preview
St. Paul, MN (AP) - The San Jose Sharks entered their three-day Christmas break on a season-high four-game winning streak. Judging by their first game after the layoff, they may have enjoyed the time off a bit too much.
San Jose looks to rebound from one of its worst performances of the season when it opens a three-game trip against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night.
According to NHL odds and oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Sharks -128 money line favorites for Wednesday's game against the Wild. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 62% of more than 325 bets for this game have been placed on the Sharks -128.
Inconsistent through most of this season, the Sharks (19-12-5) outscored opponents 14-6 during four consecutive wins Dec. 16-23, playing more like the team that won the Pacific Division the last three seasons.
With a chance to move into sole possession of second place in the division Monday, however, San Jose fell flat in a 4-0 home loss to Los Angeles. The Sharks needed more than 12 minutes to register a shot on goal and were outshot 30-14 through two periods in getting shut out for the fifth time this season.
``I'm just embarrassed,'' defenseman Dan Boyle said. ``It was a terrible effort. There were a lot of line changes and faceoffs where things could happen. It was just effort. A lot of us took the night off and against a team as good as that, it can't happen.''
Only an outstanding first two periods from Antti Niemi kept the game scoreless before the Kings did all their scoring in the third. Niemi finished with 33 saves.
``There has to be a complete turnaround,'' coach Todd McLellan said. ``There's nothing from this game we can take and say 'keep doing that.' We were outworked, outhustled, outmuscled and outcommitted. It was pretty obvious one team came to play and another team came to see what would happen."
While Niemi was one of the few Sharks who played well Monday, McLellan figures to switch back to Antero Niittymaki for this game.
Niittymaki was in net for each game of the win streak, stopping 47 of 49 shots in his last two starts. He has been particularly good on the road, going 6-1-1 with a 2.23 goals-against average.
San Jose was held scoreless on three power-play opportunities Monday after converting seven of 27 chances during the four-game run. The Sharks have recorded at least one power-play goal in five consecutive road games.
Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom was responsible for one of San Jose's five shutouts this season, stopping 36 shots in a 1-0 win at Xcel Energy Center on Nov. 2. San Jose had won five straight against the Wild and was 13-0-2 in the last 15 meetings.
The Wild (16-14-5) also came out of the holiday break with a win streak, taking three in a row before falling 4-1 to Detroit on Sunday and 4-3 in a shootout at Columbus on Monday night.
Chuck Kobasew had a goal and assist, but Minnesota went scoreless on seven power-play chances - its highest total since it had a season-high nine against the Sharks in November.
``I thought our power play let us down tonight,'' coach Todd Richards said. ``We had a chance to go up by two or three goals with the power-play opportunities.''
Richards' club was a much more determined group Monday, registering 40 shots after it managed 17 the previous night at home against the Red Wings.The Wild are 2-5-1 in their last eight games at Xcel Energy Center, going 3 for 28 on the power play.
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