In a rematch of Monday’s excellent contest, the Minnesota Wild will take on the San Jose Sharks at the “Shark Tank” on Wednesday night. The Sharks (14-16-4) pulled off the 5-4 shootout to snap their two-game skid, while the loss ended the Wild’s (21-10-2) three-game win streak.
Here is a closer look at some key stats as well as players to watch before getting to a free pick. Right now, Minnesota is a road favorite at -158, while San Jose is a +134 underdog.
By the numbers
When it comes to putting pucks in the net, the Wild have the advantage. Minnesota is averaging 2.94 goals per game, 14th in the NHL, while San Jose sits 21st with an average of 2.65 goals per game. However, the Sharks average about a shot more per game and have the 23rd ranked power play, whereas the Wild suffer from having the league’s lowest-rated power play at 9.7 percent.
Defensively, Minnesota once again has the edge. The Wild allow the sixth-fewest goals per game at 2.45, while the Sharks allow the fourth-most with 3.41. Minnesota also allows approximately two fewer shots on goal, and while each team struggles to stay out of the penalty box, the Wild also have the clear advantage on the penalty kill with an 85.8 percent kill rate compared to San Jose’s 79.5.
Players to watch
Starting with the visitors, many eyes will be on Minnesota’s standout rookie Kirill Kaprizov. The talented right-wing is the team-leader with 11 goals and tied for the lead with 16 assists, as he has become the go-to guy on this team.
Behind him with 21 points are wingers Mats Zuccarello and Jordan Greenway. Both have been a little quiet on the scoresheet in recent days, but each have had an assist in the last two games combined. As far as players carrying some momentum into Wednesday, both forwards Marcus Johansson and Kevin Fiala have registered back-to-back games with points, while defenseman Jared Spurgeon is just a couple of games removed from a two-goal night.
For the home team, left-wing Evander Kane has pushed through some offseason issues and has stepped up as the team’s leading producer. The 29-year old is tied for the team-lead with 14 goals while being the solo leader with 16 assists as well.
Seven points back in center and captain Logan Couture. Couture is tied for the goal-lead at 14 but has been held without a point for the last four games. Right-wing Timo Meier is one assist shy of Kane but has just one point in his last five games as well. As far as players who have stepped up in recent days, former Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson scored twice on Monday along with burying the shootout winner, while center Tomas Hertl has had a pair of goals in the last week to up his total to 10 on the year.
After starting Talbot in four straight games, it makes sense for Minnesota to turn to Kaapo Kahkonen. The 24-year old has been much better than anticipated, going 12-5-0 with a 2.29 GAA and .921 save percentage.
Meanwhile, San Jose has seemed to establish Martin Jones as their primary goalie, as he’ll likely be asked to start again. The 31-year old Jones is 11-7-2 on the year, combined with a 3.29 GAA and .897 save percentage.
The Sharks were the overall better team on Monday, out-shooting Minnesota 39-25 while also beating them handily in the faceoff circle. But on Wednesday, bet on the Wild’s defense to come through a little bit more. Minnesota isn’t an elite shot-prevention team, but they are one who doesn’t allow many of those shots to be quality looks. With an upgrade in net should they roll with Kahkonen, look for the Wild’s defense to bounce back, and for Minnesota to take this game on the road.
Pick: Wild -158
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