(SportsNetwork.com) - The San Jose Sharks will try to rebound after suffering consecutive regulation losses for the first time this season when they visit the Minnesota Wild for Sunday's clash at Xcel Energy Center.
After beginning their current four-game road trip with a sixth consecutive win Tuesday night in Toronto, the Sharks have lost two straight in regulation. San Jose dropped a 5-1 decision in Pittsburgh on Thursday before losing 5-3 the following night against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The two-game slide is only the second losing streak of the season for the Sharks, who went 0-1-4 during a five-game slide from Oct. 30-Nov. 10. Despite going its last two games without a point, San Jose is only two behind Anaheim for the Pacific Division lead. The Sharks hold three games in hand over the Ducks, who are idle on Sunday.
The Sharks went ahead 2-0 in the first period of Friday's tilt in Raleigh, but Carolina scored the game's next three goals to grab a 3-2 edge by the early stages of the third stanza.
Justin Braun would knot the test for San Jose at 3-3 with 10:25 left in the third before Elias Lindholm recorded the game-winner for Carolina with six minutes remaining. Eric Staal added an empty-net tally in the final minute to seal the win for the Hurricanes.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Tommy Wingels joined Braun as the goal-scorers for San Jose on Friday. Alex Stalock turned aside 30 shots in a losing effort between the pipes.
"I don't think we're playing with the energy we played with earlier in the year," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said.
Joe Thornton recorded an assist in Friday's loss to extend his point streak to eight games. San Jose's captain has three goals and seven assists during the run.
The Sharks are 9-4-3 as the visiting team this season and have lost three of their last four games on the road. San Jose will begin a brief two-game homestand when it hosts the New York Islanders on Tuesday.
The Wild will try to rebound from their fifth loss in seven games when they host San Jose on Sunday. Minnesota had won two straight at home before getting dealt a 4-0 loss Friday night at Columbus.
The setback dropped the Wild's road record this season to 5-6-3, but Minnesota is sporting a solid 12-3-2 mark on home ice. However, after Sunday's home tilt, the Wild will play three straight and seven of their next eight games on the road.
Minnesota was shut out for just the second time this season in Friday's loss to the Blue Jackets. Curtis McElhinney posted 20 saves to record the 4-0 shutout for Columbus.
Niklas Backstrom gave up all four goals on 41 shots for the Wild, who went 0- for-4 on the power play.
"They had a lot of jump on us and we played into their game, turned the puck over way too much," said Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo. "We just didn't have any jump."
San Jose has won two straight against the Wild and is 5-3-1 over the last nine meetings in this series. Minnesota has taken five straight encounters as the host.
Antti Niemi expects to get the start for San Jose on Sunday and is 6-3-3 with a 2.34 goals against average in 12 career games against the Wild.
Backstrom is 6-12-3 with a 3.07 GAA in 21 career outings against the Sharks, while fellow Wild goaltender Josh Harding is 1-1-0 with a 4.76 GAA in this matchup.