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Thursday, March 17th (All times eastern)

Minnesota Wild (35-28-7) at San Jose Sharks (40-23-8), 10:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Minnesota Wild will try to salvage the finale of a four-game homestand this evening as they visit HP Pavilion and the Pacific Division-leading San Jose Sharks, who will be without forward Dany Heatley.

The Wild have been outscored 12-2 over the first three games of this residency, getting shut out in back-to-back games by the Predators and Stars before losing Monday's contest in Vancouver, 4-2. With just 12 games remaining, Minnesota is four points back of the eighth spot in the Western Conference.

Captain Mikko Koivu returned on Monday from an 11-game absence caused by a broken finger, setting up Andrew Brunette's tally while also lighting the lamp himself. However, all three of the goals Niklas Backstrom allowed on 21 shots came in the first period.

"It wasn't a good start for us or Backstrom," said Minnesota head coach Todd Richards. "He had a rough first period, but then he held down the fort and gave us a chance to come back."

In addition to Koivu's return, Cal Clutterbuck also came back from a four-game absence due to a concussion, while Clayton Stoner played for the first time in four games due to an abdominal ailment. However, Guillaume Latendresse, Cam Barker and Marek Zidlicky are all questionable due to injury.

Minnesota had won its first two games versus San Jose this year after a five- game series losing streak, but was bested by a 4-3 margin at HP Pavilion on Jan. 22. The Wild have lost three straight and seven of their last eight at the Sharks, who have won 14 of the past 18 meetings overall.

San Jose snapped an 0-1-2 slide on Tuesday with a 6-3 victory at Dallas. Joe Thornton and Heatley both capped two-goal games by scoring into an empty net in the game's final 1:08.

The Sharks won't have Heatley's services tonight, though, after the forward was suspended for two games by the league on Wednesday due to an elbow to the head of the Stars' Steve Ott.

Torrey Mitchell and Ryane Clowe also tallied in the third period and Joe Pavelski notched a career-best four assists for the Sharks, who improved to 19-4-3 in their past 26 games and lead the Kings and Coyotes by three points for the Pacific's top spot.

Antti Niemi stopped 34-of-37 shots in his 26th straight start.

"It was just a good win," Thornton said. "We feel like we're never out of a game."

Niclas Wallin left Tuesday's game with an upper-body injury and is questionable for tonight.

The Sharks will play their next three at home as they return to the HP Pavilion for the first time since a 3-1-2 residency from March 1-12.

Niemi has won both of his previous career starts versus the Wild, stopping 44- of-47 shots faced, while Backstrom is 4-8-3 with a 3.03 GAA versus the Sharks.

03/17 11:25:48 ET


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