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NHL Betting Pick: Minnesota Wild at San Jose Sharks

Two struggling teams who recently got back on track will battle on Thursday night, as the Minnesota Wild (5-9-1, 6th Central) continue their West Coast swing against the San Jose Sharks (5-10-1, 7th Pacific) at the SAP Center. Both of these clubs snapped losing streaks in their last games as they attempt to climb back into contention.

Here is a preview for Thursday night’s game, along with odds and a prediction.

By The Numbers

For the most part, these teams are statistically equal across the board, starting with lackluster offenses. Minnesota averages 2.47 goals per game (27th in NHL), 28.8 shots (27th), and an 8.8 shooting percentage (24th). They also score on 18.4 percent of their power plays, which is 18th in the league.

The Sharks average 2.5 goals per game (26th in NHL), 29.3 shots (26th), and an 8.5 shooting percentage (25th). Their power play is a little better, scoring 20.8 percent of the time, 14th in hockey.

There’s not a big difference defensively either. The Wild allow the eighth-most goals per game with 3.4, while the Sharks average the fourth-most at 3.63. They’re 11th and 14th in shots allowed, respectively, as well.

Finally, we get to our largest discrepancy, and that’s the penalty kill. While Minnesota is a solid 14th with an 83 percent kill rate, San Jose has the league’s top penalty kill at 90.2 percent. That’s in spite of the Sharks also leading the league in average penalty minutes per game.

What To Watch

Tuesday’s 4-2 victory against the Ducks was a big one for Bruce Boudreau and the Wild. The win snapped a five-game road losing streak and a three-game losing streak overall. It was also the first time Minnesota scored more than three goals on the road this season. Now the team hopes that success carries over against a team where power-play goals will be hard to come by.

Minnesota is a veteran group, and its scoring leaders reflect that. Eric Staal leads the Wild with 11 points (five goals, six assists), followed closely by Jason Zucker (four goals, five assists). Defensemen Jared Spurgeon and Brad Hunt have eight points apiece as well. Kevin Fiala, who has just three points but scored on Tuesday, suffered a lower-body injury and will miss this game.

San Jose, meanwhile, had suffered five straight losses but snapped its streak with a 4-2 win over the Blackhawks. During that losing streak, the Sharks failed to score more than two goals in any contest. Now, they’ll remain home and face off against an opponent that has also struggled to score but may just now be finding its groove.

Like Minnesota, the Sharks are a team that’s dependent on its veterans. Brent Burns and Tomas Hertl each have 14 points to lead the team, while Evander Kane has 13 points (nine goals, four assists). Captain Logan Couture is up to 10 points, nine of which have come via assists, while Patrick Marleau has three goals in his second stint with San Jose.

Goalies

Thursday night’s goalies are both veterans who have had good years in the past but have struggled in 2019-20. Minnesota will start Devan Dubnyk, who is 2-6-1 with a 3.68 GAA and .883 save percentage. San Jose will counter with Martin Jones, who is 3-7-1 with a 3.38 GAA and .889 save percentage.

Odds and Pick

The Sharks are favorites in this one, listed at -150 to win their second game in a row. As stated earlier, these teams have been almost identical for much of the year. But a couple of factors, including home record versus away record and an elite penalty kill, have me siding with San Jose. I’ll take the Sharks -150.