The Sharks need, say, another good win or two before they earn a "consistent," label. They've an offense that has produced ten goals in two games, but with the start to the season they had, it's hard to quantify where exactly they stand. It's still too small of a sample size for one to really dissect them and draw some sort of accurate prediction going forward. So rather than "consistent," they are presently the definition of "streaky." They're a streaky team who has elevated their play in two recent outings, and whether or not they continue it is entirely up to them.
Whether they continue their offensive tear, backed by solid defense and above-average net-minding (at least as far as one Antero Niittymaki is concerned) or sputter out by mishandling pucks and generally being adverse to putting together goals at full-strength, is entirely up to them. Antti Niemi's struggles can be fixed only by himself and the defense around him. Niemi's struggles can impact the Sharks less if the management makes the right calls and plays Niittymaki. Niittymaki can earn himself more playing time with more stellar play. Nothing is left up to outside influences, there is talent to be utilized, Sharks fans have come to find out, it's just whether or not they have the consistency to effectively maximize the utilization.
Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marlaeu are the top line and the top performers for San Jose. The Sharks haven't yet won three straight this season, but those three will have something to say about that on Tuesday night at the Xcel Energy Center. The three combined over two starts have 20 points, with 8 goals and 12 assists. Heatley scored twice and Thornton matched a season best with three assists on Saturday to lift the Sharks over the Ducks, 5-2. Marleau, Niclas Wallin and Logan Couture also scored in the win and Antero Niittymaki made 22 saves to improve to 4-0-1 on the season with a 1.87 goals- against average.
Niittymaki should be getting the start against the Wild for a number of reasons. One, Niemi is slumping fast. Two, Niittymaki is playing very well this season and three, he's never lost to the Wild, in three career starts he has a 1.96 GAA. Heatley has seven goals and 12 points in 10 career games when facing the Wild.
Niklas Backstrom will be in net for the Wild, he allowed two goals in thirty-one shots to the in his last outing. He's lost his last four starts against the Sharks and is 2-7-3 with a 3.19 GAA lifetime. Antti Miettinen is likely to miss due to a concussion or other head injury.
San Jose hasn't lost in regulation to Minnesota since Oct. 21. The Sharks will enter as clear favorites and will aim towards that warm, fuzzy feeling one would call "consistency." Sure would be nice after the start they endured with the long layoff from Europe and things of that nature.