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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, January 22nd (All times eastern)

Minnesota Wild (24-18-5) at San Jose Sharks (24-19-5), 10:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Sharks have won three straight games since their longest losing streak of the season. The way the Wild have played as of late, earning a fourth consecutive victory tonight may prove challenging.

Minnesota and San Jose both look to extend three-game winning streaks and hopefully pick up some ground in the playoff race this evening at HP Pavilion.

The Sharks dropped six straight games from Jan. 3-13 before rebounding with three straight wins. Their latest may have been the biggest as they knocked off the Western Conference-leading Canucks, 2-1, in a shootout on Thursday.

Logan Couture scored his team and NHL-rookie leading 21st goal of the season and Joe Pavelski had the lone goal of the shootout. Couture's tally came during the second period, when San Jose unleashed a club road record 25 shots.

"I thought we carried the play for the second and third period, and in overtime, so it was a good game. Good to get two points," said Sharks forward Joe Thornton.

Antti Niemi made 36 saves and was backed up by University of British Columbia goaltender Jordan White, who signed a one-game amateur tryout after Antero Niittymaki suffered a groin injury in morning skate that landed him on injured reserve.

Forwards Ben Eager and Kyle Wellwood both made their San Jose debuts and John McCarthy also returned to the lineup after missing 17 games with an upper-body injury. They helped to counter the losses of Ryan Clowe (ankle) and Scott Nichol, who served the first contest of his four-game suspension for a hit to the head of Phoenix defenseman David Schlemko on Monday.

San Jose is tied with Minnesota for ninth in the Western Conference with 53 points, one back of both Colorado and Chicago. The club can match its longest win streak of the season tonight that was set from Dec. 16-23, but has won just once in its last seven home games.

The Sharks draw a stiff challenge tonight in the Wild, who have outscored their opponents, 14-1, over their three-game win streak and have won seven of their last 10 overall.

Minnesota is coming off Wednesday's 6-0 rout of Calgary in which Niklas Backstrom returned from a nine-game absence due to a hip injury to post a 37- save shutout, his second of the season and 21st of his career.

Martin Havlat scored twice and had an assist, Kyle Brodziak had a career-high three helpers and John Madden, Chuck Kobasew and Cal Clutterbuck each had a goal and an assist.

"There's no gimmes around the league," said Minnesota head coach Todd Richards. "We've won three, we've defended really well, our goalie's played well. It feels good."

Minnesota has won the first two contests of a four-game road trip to improve to 13-7-3 on the road. The club won just 13 games total as the guest last year.

Backstrom is likely to get the start tonight and should be backed up by Jose Theodore, who has been out with a hip injury. Fellow netminder Anton Khudobin, who notched his first career hat trick last Sunday versus the Canucks, was sent back to Houston of the American Hockey League.

Backstrom is 4-7-3 with a 2.95 goals-against average lifetime versus the Sharks, but has been in net for both victories over them this year. That includes a 36-save shutout in Minnesota on Nov. 2 and another 5-3 home victory on Dec. 29.

The Wild had lost five straight to the Sharks heading into the season, but have still lost two straight and six of their last seven in San Jose.

Niemi has faced the Wild just once before, posting a 21-save shutout.

01/22 10:43:18 ET

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