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Veteran Sharks seek 6th straight win in clash with Wild
(SportsNetwork.com) - Armed with the knowledge that veterans Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will remain in the mix for the foreseeable future, the San Jose Sharks aim to match their longest win streak of the season on Saturday as they host the Minnesota Wild.
The Sharks will try to record a sixth straight victory one day after signing Thornton and Marleau, both 34, to separate three-year extensions through the 2016-17 season.
Both were set to become free agents in July, but Thornton inked a deal worth a reported $6.75 million per year while Marleau is set to be paid $6.66 million per season.
"Patrick and Joe continue to perform at an elite level in the National Hockey League and, most importantly, they make the other players around them better," said Sharks general manager Doug Wilson in a statement Friday. "They both made it very clear that they wanted to stay in San Jose and we were able to agree on contracts that fit with our team building philosophy."
The Sharks have been contenders ever since they acquired Thornton from the Boston Bruins on Nov. 30, 2005. The captain leads the NHL this season with 47 assists and is tied for sixth with 53 points in 51 games, and has totaled 549 assists and 717 points with San Jose.
Marleau, taken second overall in the 1997 draft after Boston nabbed Thornton with the top pick, has 21 goals and 26 points in 51 games this season and is the Sharks' all-time leader with 425 goals and 908 points.
Neither player was able to find the scoresheet in Thursday's meeting with the Winnipeg Jets, but Joe Pavelski's third-period goal was enough in a 1-0 win thanks to a 20-save shutout by backup goaltender Alex Stalock.
Stalock was making his first start since Jan. 16, when he notched the first shutout of his career with 24 saves in a 3-0 road win over Florida.
"I'm going in to do my job and give the team a chance to win and we wound up getting two points," Stalock said of posting his second straight whitewash.
San Jose has won two straight at home to begin a four-game residency.
Pavelski, meanwhile, remained red hot with his seventh goal in four games and 19th in his last 21 games. He now ranks second in the NHL with 28 goals on the campaign.
Antti Niemi, among the league leaders with 43 starts on the season, is likely to start tonight and is 7-3-1 in his career versus the Wild with a 1.82 goals against average.
The Sharks are one win shy of matching their longest win streak of the campaign, first done with a 6-0 start to the season from Oct. 3-15 and matched from Nov. 21-Dec. 3.
San Jose dropped a 3-1 decision in Minnesota back on Dec. 8 in the first of three meetings this season, but countered with a 3-1 home victory on Dec. 12. That gave the Sharks a win in three straight and 12 of their last 14 at home versus the Wild.
Minnesota, which begins a four-game road trip, has won eight of its last 11 games and is tied with Vancouver for the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference with 61 points.
The Wild were blanked 4-0 in Dallas on Tuesday, but bounced back with a 2-1 victory over the visiting Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. Jason Pominville and Matt Cooke had first-period goals, while Darcy Kuemper did his part with 33 saves.
"That was definitely the response we were looking for, especially our start," Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo said of his team. "We were on our toes, we looked confident."
The 23-year-old Kuemper, making his sixth start in a row, appeared in line for his second career shutout, but Patrick Kane spoiled the whitewash with his 24th goal of the season with 31.2 seconds left in the game.
However, Kuemper came up with a clutch stop on the doorstep with under 10 seconds left and Zach Parise, who returned from a 14-game absence, was able to clear the puck out to secure the Wild's third win in four games.
Kuemper may have earned another start tonight and it would be his first against the Sharks. He has faced them once before in relief, facing only two shots in 16 minutes and giving up a goal.
01/25 10:29:24 ET
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