In a playoff chase in which every point matters, the Minnesota Wild are making each game count—even their losses.
The Wild look to earn a point in their seventh straight game Tuesday night when they host the San Jose Sharks.
Minnesota (36-23-7) has lost two of its last three, but registered a point in both of those defeats after falling in shootouts. The Wild are tied for seventh place in the Western Conference, where only two points separate fifth from eighth. They trail sixth-place San Jose (39-25-2) by just one point.
The Wild could have pulled even with the Sharks on Sunday, but blew two leads in falling to Vancouver 4-3 in the sixth round of a shootout. Minnesota has played in an NHL-leading 22 overtime games this season, going 10-6 in shootouts and 15-7 overall after regulation.
“It’s tough when you lose a game, but you have to look at the whole picture,” Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom said. “This point can be huge in the future.”
Backstrom, returning from a one-game absence due to a groin injury, made 32 saves in the loss. He is 9-2-2 in his last 14 starts in place of the injured Manny Fernandez, who has been out since Feb. 1 with a sprained knee.
Fernandez, though, practiced with the team this week and could return as early as Tuesday.
While the Wild have been streaking, the Sharks recently suffered their longest losing streak of the season. They snapped that four-game skid, though, with a 4-0 win over Dallas on Sunday.
San Jose got off to a strong start Sunday, scoring in the first three minutes on Curtis Brown’s eighth goal of the season. The Sharks scored first for only the third time in their last 10 games, and have been outscored 12-5 in the first period in that stretch.
“We talked about starting better,” coach Ron Wilson said. “In seven of the last nine games (before Sunday), we’ve been down by two goals, but today we did what we had to do.”
Wilson and the Sharks are hoping that the addition of Bill Guerin, acquired from St. Louis at the trade deadline, can help them maintain that aggressive mindset. Guerin, a four-time All-Star, was leading the Blues with 47 points before the trade.
“We have to finish checks and take hits and play physical,” Guerin said Sunday after playing his third game for San Jose. “We’ll be a much better team if we do that. If we play soft, we’re not going to do much.”
No team in the NHL has more road wins than San Jose, which is 21-13-0 away from home. The Sharks are closing out a three-game trip with their 11th road game in their last 13 contests.
The Wild are 22-5-4 at home, where they have won five of six.
Minnesota, though, has lost three of its last four against San Jose, including two of three meetings this season. The Wild are just 1-4-0 in their last five home games against the Sharks.