The San Jose Sharks are now two seasons removed from their historic Stanley Cup run and a trade deadline that prepared them for the long haul of summer hockey. One of the moving pieces was goaltender Alex Stalock, who once backed up starter Martin Jones. He was sent to Toronto as part of the package to get James Reimer. There, Stalock was sent down to play with the Toronto Marlies. In free agency, he signed with the Minnesota Wild, playing last year with their AHL affiliate, the Iowa Wild, starting 50 games and posting a .926 save percentage, and appearing in two games with Minnesota. When the Wild lost Darcy Kuemper to free agency, Stalock stepped up to the plate, earning his way back to the NHL.
He’ll now be facing off against the team that traded him, as Minnesota give him the start against the Sharks tonight.
Though projected high at the start of the season, Minnesota has struggled to pull together and compete. They are dead last in the league for average shots on goal (29), 17th for goals per game (2.93), and 16th in goal allowed average (2.96). They’ve managed to find some success on the power play, convert 22.0 percent of the time, for fifth-best in the league. They’ve also executed a strong penalty kill at 82.5 percent for ninth in the league. Minnesota has split their last ten games, going 5-4-1, and are 14-11-3 on the season, fifth in the Central Division. They’ll be wrapping up the California road trip, which has seen them lose 5-2 to the L.A. Kings and win 3-2 against the Anaheim Ducks already.
For San Jose, the goal seems simple: end this home stand on a high note. But once again, the Sharks are on their third game in four days and that goal may be harder than anticipated.
Their offense has been finding its footing, scoring five goals in both games against the Carolina Hurricanes and the Ottawa Senators this week. The defense remains solid, with Tim Heed coming back into the line up last night. Their penalty kill is second in the league at 87.2 percent, which will be put to the test against Minnesota’s power play.
The Sharks will be without the services of Dylan DeMelo (face), Barclay Goodrow (Lower body), Mikkel Boedker (undisclosed), and Joonas Donskoi (lower body), who are all on injured reserve. Paul Martin has been assigned to the San Jose Barracuda for conditioning, slotting Joakim Ryan back into the line up.
The Wild are seeing fewer injuries, but likely more impactful ones, as shut-down defenseman Jared Spurgeon (illness) and veteran forward Zach Parise (back) will sit tonight.
The scoring leaders on these teams are looking awfully similar. Logan Couture leads in goals (15) and points (25) for the Sharks, while Jason Zucker holds both of those titles for the Wild (14 goals, 24 points). Joe Thornton, 19th all-time scorer in the league, leads the Sharks in assists with 15, while Eric Staal leads the Wild with 13 of his own.
Puck drops at 6 pm Pacific at SAP Center.