After beginning the 2012 calendar year on a four-game winning streak, the Sharks, who lead the Pacific Division by one point over Los Angeles, can match their longest tear of the season with another victory tonight. San Jose won five straight from Oct. 21-29.
San Jose's most recent victory came Saturday against the visiting Washington Capitals. Patrick Marleau had a goal and two assists for the Sharks, who scored the game's final three goals to take a 5-2 decision at HP Pavilion.
The Capitals tied the game at 2-2 on a Joel Ward goal just 44 seconds into the third period, but Marleau tallied 14 seconds later to give San Jose the lead for good.
Burns will make his return to Minnesota tonight after getting dealt to the Sharks over the summer for forward Devin Setoguchi, center Charlie Coyle and the 28th overall pick in the 2011 draft. Burns, Minnesota's first-round pick in the 2003 draft, faced his former club twice earlier this season in San Jose, but will make his first trip to St. Paul as an opposing player tonight.
He has seven goals and six assists in 38 games this season for the Sharks.
Meanwhile, Sharks forward Martin Havlat was acquired in a separate trade for Dany Heatley last summer, but the former Wild sniper will miss a chance to play in St. Paul tonight, as he is currently on injured reserve following surgery to repair his left hamstring.
Tonight's tilt also marks the start of a four-game road trip for the Sharks, who are 9-4-2 as the guest this season.
The Wild and Sharks split a pair of meetings this year in northern California and San Jose has taken eight of 11 overall in the series. The Sharks have also won eight of their last 11 in St. Paul, but have dropped their last two trips to the XEC.
The last time the Wild and Sharks met on Dec. 6, Minnesota was leading the NHL in points, but that has all changed over the last month. Minnesota has lost 11 of its last 12, posting a 1-8-3 record over that span and has nearly fallen out of the Western Conference playoff picture. The Wild enter tonight tied with Nashville for the final two playoff seeds in the West.
The Wild have lost their last three games in regulation and were last in action Saturday in Calgary. Jarome Iginla scored the 500th goal of his career to lead the Flames to a 3-1 decision.
Heatley scored the lone goal for the Wild and the former Shark is leading Minnesota with 13 goals this season. Niklas Backstrom gave up all three goals on 36 shots in the loss.
"A lot of times when you're struggling, you end up on your heels a lot and I find that that's the case for us a lot of the time, we're just not that aggressive," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "I don't know if it's fear or a lack of confidence or whatever it is, but we don't attack the same way."
Minnesota is 11-6-3 as the host this year, but has dropped four of its last five in St. Paul. The Wild will go on a four-game road trip following tonight's tilt.
Wild forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard missed Saturday's game with a lower-body injury and is questionable for tonight. He is fourth on Minnesota this season with 22 points.