The Minnesota Wild are off to a great start and find themselves in position to post their longest win streak since 2007.
They may have the San Jose Sharks to thank in part for that.
After swapping a handful of players with each other this past offseason, the Wild and Sharks will clash for the first time in 2011-12 tonight at HP Pavilion.
Minnesota missed the postseason for a third straight time last year and was looking to add some offensive firepower this past summer. The first move came during the 2011 NHL Entry Draft on June 24, when the Wild shipped defenseman Brent Burns to the Sharks for forward Devin Setoguchi, center Charlie Coyle and the 28th overall pick in the draft.
Burns was Minnesota's first-round pick in the 2003 draft and posted 46 points in 80 games last year. Setoguchi, meanwhile, was selected by San Jose eighth overall in the 2005 draft and netted 84 goals over four seasons with the Sharks.
Both players will face their former employers for the first time in their career tonight.
The two franchises then hooked up again a little over a week later, with the Wild swapping forward Martin Havlat for the Sharks' Dany Heatley. Havlat joined Minnesota prior to the 2009-10 season to help offset the loss of Marian Gaborik following a career-high 77-point campaign with the Blackhawks, but accounted for just 40 goals in his two seasons with the Wild and waived a no- trade clause to make the deal possible.
Heatley, meanwhile, logged 65 goals and 146 points in two regular seasons with the Sharks, but had only five goals in 32 postseason games as San Jose was eliminated in the conference finals both years.
Heatley comes into this game as Minnesota's leading scorer with 10 points. He had a goal and an assist in Tuesday's 3-0 victory over Calgary, giving him 699 career points. Setoguchi has four goals and eight points in 14 games this year, but none in his past two.
The big story for the Wild on Tuesday was the play of Niklas Backstrom. Backup Josh Harding had started the first four games of Minnesota's current win streak, allowing only three goals, but Backstrom stopped all 41 shots faced in his first start since Oct. 27. It was his first shutout of the season and 23rd of his career.
"I don't know that we can make a bad decision as a coaching staff now as far as who we're going to put in net, both guys are doing a fantastic job," said Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo.
The Wild have won five straight for the first time since Nov. 27-Dec. 5, 2009 and a victory in this game will give them six in a row for the first time since a club-record nine-game win streak from March 8-24, 2007.
The Sharks, meanwhile, are 7-1-1 in their last nine games and are coming off Monday's 4-2 victory over the Kings. Patrick Marleau had a goal and two assists, Joe Thornton and Dan Boyle both scored and Antti Niemi made 29 saves.
"It was one of our more complete games," said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. "Everyone got a chance to contribute."
Havlat did not register a point in the game and has a goal and seven assists on the season.
San Jose moved to 2-0-1 on a six-game homestand and has won 15 of its last 19 meetings with Minnesota despite splitting the four-game series last year. Burns led the Wild in scoring versus the Sharks last year with two goals and five points.
Minnesota is just 1-7-1 in its last nine games at HP Pavilion.