SAN JOSE – The Wild opens a three-game road trip Thursday in San Jose against the Sharks without Eric Staal, the team's third-leading goal scorer.
The veteran center did not accompany the team to California due to a death in his family. It’s unclear whether Staal will rejoin the team at some point on the trip, which also has stops in Los Angeles (Saturday) and Anaheim (Sunday).
With Staal unavailable, the Wild will shift Luke Kunin to center after he returned to the lineup Tuesday from an upper-body injury at right wing. Before Kunin got hurt, he was playing up the middle.
Gerald Mayhew will draw in at wing, and Victor Rask will remain scratched. Goalie Alex Stalock will make a sixth straight start.
“We felt very comfortable with Luke at either position,” interim coach Dean Evason said. “We’ve got a lot of different options. Even within the game, we’re going to be able to flip people around if need be.”
This is the Wild’s first trip back to San Jose since a 6-5 loss on Nov.7, a game in which the Wild fell into a 4-0 hole early and nearly rallied to win.
That game was part of an early-season swoon on the road, but the team has since rebounded.
Over its last 22 road games, the Wild is 13-7-2 as the visitor and has scored three or more goals in 17 of those contests.
“I think our group feels good about each other,” Evason said. “That’s the main thing. It doesn’t matter. We’ve talked several times where we play or who we play or when we play, it doesn’t matter to us. It’s how we play the game. Our guys will put their skates on and when the puck’s dropped, we’ll play the game hopefully the right way.”
Jordan Greenway-Luke Kunin-Kevin Fiala
Zach Parise-Joel Eriksson Ek-Gerald Mayhew
Marcus Foligno-Alex Galchenyuk-Mats Zuccarello
Ryan Donato-Mikko Koivu-Ryan Hartman
Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin-Matt Dumba
Brad Hunt-Greg Pateryn
5: Straight wins on the road for the Wild.
12-6-2: Record for the Wild against the Pacific Division this season.
33: Goals for the Wild in its last eight games compared to 20 for the opposition.
5: Consecutive multi-point games for winger Kevin Fiala, a franchise first.
3: Goals in three straight games for winger Zach Parise.
About the Sharks:
The Sharks have won three in a row, all at home. This is the fourth contest on a six-game homestand; overall, San Jose is 17-15-1 on home ice. The Sharks have scored five goals in each of its last two games and gave up just two in that span. Winger Evander Kane leads the team in goals with 24. His 43 points are one behind defenseman Brent Burns for the team lead.