SAN JOSE SHARKS

With playoff hopes dwindling, Minnesota Wild ready for San Jose Sharks

Mar 27, 2024, 5:52 PM | Updated: May 24, 2024, 4:41 am

Marat Khusnutdinov #22 of thge Minnesota Wild skates towards a puck during the first period of a ga...

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 20: Marat Khusnutdinov #22 of thge Minnesota Wild skates towards a puck during the first period of a game against the Los Angeles Kingsat Crypto.com Arena on March 20, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

The Minnesota Wild will try to bolster their slim playoff hopes when they face off against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night in Saint Paul, Minn.

Minnesota (34-28-9, 77 points) is coming off a 5-4 overtime loss at home against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday. The Wild earned one point for taking the game to overtime but gave up ground to the Blues and Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference wild-card race.

With 11 games remaining in the regular season, the Wild trail the Golden Knights by nine points for the final wild-card berth in the West. Minnesota is three points behind St. Louis, which is the first team in the wild-card race on the outside looking in.

Minnesota coach John Hynes said he wanted his players to focus on Thursday’s game against the Sharks instead of worrying about their long odds for the playoffs.

“The best thing is continue to focus on what we can do and what we can control and continue to try to push ourselves as we have been for a while now here,” Hynes said. “That’s all we can do.”

San Jose (16-47-8, 40 points) has known for months that it will not reach the postseason, and it was officially eliminated two weeks ago. The Sharks have the fewest points in the NHL.

San Jose is coming off a 6-3 home loss against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday. The Sharks are winless in their past eight games, posting an 0-7-1 record during that span.

One bright spot for the Sharks has been the recent performance of William Eklund. He has four points (two goals, two assists) in the past three games since San Jose coach David Quinn moved him from center to wing.

Quinn said he is happy with Eklund’s play at his new position.

“Looking back, I probably should have (moved him off center) sooner,” Quinn said. “But we really didn’t have a lot of options.”

Minnesota is expected to start veteran Marc-Andre Fleury in net.

Fleury, 39, is 16-12-5 with a 2.85 goals-against average and a .899 save percentage this season. He has 560 career wins, which ranks second all-time to Martin Brodeur.

In 27 career games against San Jose, Fleury is 18-5-4 with a 1.88 GAA and a .939 save percentage.

The Sharks likely will counter with Mackenzie Blackwood between the pipes.

The 27-year-old Blackwood is 9-20-3 with a 3.57 GAA and a .896 save percentage on the season. He is 74-77-21 in his career with a 3.08 GAA and a .904 save percentage.

Blackwood has faced Minnesota two times in his career. He is 0-1-1 with a 3.38 GAA and a .892 save percentage in those contests.

This is the second of three meetings between the Wild and Sharks this season.

Minnesota won the first matchup 4-3 on its home ice on March 3. Kirill Kaprizov notched a hat trick in the victory, and Frederick Gaudreau added a goal. Anthony Duclair, Mikael Granlund and Nico Sturm scored one goal apiece for the Sharks.

The teams are scheduled to meet for a final time on April 13 in San Jose.

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–Field Level Media

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