By Curtis Pashelka
The San Jose Sharks will be looking to win consecutive games for the first time this season when they play the Minnesota Wild on Sunday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center.
James Reimer will make his second straight start in net after he made 25 saves in the Sharks’ 5-4 victory over the Dallas Stars on Friday, improving his record this season to 3-5-2 with a .906 save percentage.
With the Sharks (4-9-3) desperately trying to string some wins together and rejoin the playoff race, Reimer, if he remains consistent, could start to get the bulk of the work going forward over Kaapo Kahkonen.
Going into the game with the Wild (7-6-1), Reimer, among all goalies who had played at least five games, was 22nd in the NHL in goals saved above expected per 60 minutes at .299, per moneypuck.com. Kahkonen is 50th in the NHL by that same measure at -1.228.
In five games away from San Jose, Reimer is now 3-2-0 with a .918 save percentage and a 2.61 goals-against average. In 12 career games against the Wild, Reimer is 6-4-1 and a .925 save percentage.
Little wonder then that Reimer is getting the call Sunday, as the Sharks enter the game 15th in the Western Conference with a .344 points percentage.
“I feel I’ve played well, but I feel like there’s still another level I can get to,” Reimer said Wednesday before the start of the road trip.
Kahkonen was drafted by Minnesota in 2014 and played in the Wild organization for three-plus seasons before he was traded to the Sharks in March for defenseman Jake Middleton. In July, he and the Sharks came to terms one a two-year, $5.5 million contract, making him the team’s highest-paid goalie.
But consistency has been an issue so far, as Kahkonen owned a 1-4-1 record with a .878 save percentage in six games. In Thursday’s start against St. Louis, Kahkonen stopped 28 of 32 shots.
“I think with goaltending it’s confidence more than anything, and feeling really good about every aspect of your game,” Sharks coach David Quinn said. “I know (goaltending coach Thomas Speer’s) been talking with him about that and working on that.
“He hasn’t played bad but there’s certainly another level for him to get to and (we’re) fully confident he’ll do that in a hurry.”
After Sunday, the Sharks finish their four-game trip against the Vegas Golden Knights, then start a three-game homestand on Thursday against the Detroit Red Wings.
STURM SETTLES IN: Nico Sturm said he’s enjoyed the Bay Area since he signed a three-year, $6 million contract with the Sharks in July as a free agent.
What he didn’t expect were the less-than-balmy temperatures of late, as the region typically gets a bit chillier once the calendar flips from October to November.
“Life outside of hockey is obviously great in California, although I felt that the weather was going to be a little bit warmer in the winter, and it’s actually not that warm,” Sturm said.
Sturm played 111 games from 2019 to 2022 with the Wild before he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche for Tyson Jost in March. He was mainly a fourth line for both teams and played in 13 playoff games for the Avalanche on their run to a Stanley Cup.
With the Sharks, though, Sturm has settled into the third-line center role, replacing the still goal-less Nick Bonino at that spot late last month.
Quinn said he wasn’t going to make any lineup changes, although it was unclear if he might tweak the forward lines.
Sturm’s line with Bonino and Luke Kunin was on the ice for three goals against Friday and were flattened from a possession standpoint, allowing seven scoring chances while allowing just one.
Bonino and Kunin also have connections to the Wild. Bonino had 26 points in 55 games with the Wild duringthe 2020-21 season. Kunin was drafted by Minnesota in the first round, 15th overall, in 2016 NHL Draft and had 52 points in 131 games in three seasons with the Wild from 2017-20.
Source: Paradise Post