RED WINGS vs. SHARKS
Season series -- Detroit won 3-0-1, capturing both games in San Jose and getting a win and a shootout loss at home. They've met three times in the playoffs, with the Wings winning the last meeting (2007) in six games.
Big story -- Both teams came back after falling behind 2-1 to win their first-round series. San Jose won its last three games to beat eighth-seeded Colorado in six games, while the Wings had to go to seven games before a brilliant 6-1 victory at Phoenix on Tuesday night eliminated the pesky Coyotes.
Red Wings -- The Wings got big games from their big stars to blow away Phoenix in Game 7. They'll need the same kind of performance to beat a San Jose team that's out to end its reputation as playoff underachievers.
"That's how it's supposed to be, right?" coach Mike Babcock asked rhetorically after the game. "Our big guys were fantastic."
Those big guys, Babcock, and many of the Wings are familiar with San Jose's coach -- Todd McLellan took over behind the Sharks' bench in the fall of 2008 after serving as an assistant on Detroit's Cup-winning team the previous spring.
"They play a similar style to us," Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said. "We've been facing them a lot in the last few years in the playoffs. It's usually a really good series. It's well-played hockey and it's exciting for the fans."
Sharks -- The Sharks avoided the first-round upset that bit them a year ago by rallying for three consecutive wins against Colorado. Now they face the Wings in the postseason for the first time since the second round in 2007, when the Sharks were seconds away from a 3-1 series lead, only to have the Wings tie the game after pulling goaltender Dominik Hasek, win in overtime and take the series in six games.
It's among a number of early-round disappointments for the Sharks.
"That is our reputation right now," forward Joe Pavelski said. "You got to work extremely hard to change your reputation once something happens. A lot of us in that room have only been to the second round. I mean, a few guys won Cups. We know that experience. But it's something, you always got to reprove yourself every year."
Who's hot -- The Wings' stars came up big in the opening round -- led by Zetterberg, who had 6 goals and 11 points in the seven games. Nicklas Lidstrom, who turned 40 on Wednesday, had 2 goals and an assist in Game 7. Pavel Datsyuk scored twice in the deciding game, and Brian Rafalski had three assists. Johan Franzen had a point in all seven games. … San Jose goaltender Evgeni Nabokov allowed just a pair of goals while winning the last three games against Colorado, and Pavelski topped the Sharks with five goals.
Injury report -- San Jose forward Jed Ortmeyer (lower body) is listed as day-to-day. The rest between rounds will help Dany Heatley, who was hampered by a lower-body injury in the first round (he sat out one game). … The Wings are as healthy as could be expected at this time of year. The Sharks will have the benefit of having been off since Saturday, while the Wings are playing just 48 hours after wrapping up their series against Phoenix.
Stat pack -- Detroit has won six of eight playoff games between the teams at the Shark Tank, including two of three in 2007. San Jose has lost four consecutive series openers -- all at home. … San Jose won its opening-round series despite minimal production from its big offensive guns. Joe Thornton had no goals and 3 assists; Patrick Marleau had a goal and a pair of assists, and Heatley had no goals and 4 assists. That has to change for the Sharks to win. "We got it done with a lot of other people in the first round," said Heatley, who was slowed by a lower-body injury in the first round. "We just have to keep creating chances. As long as we're creating chances, we'll score some goals."
Puck drop -- The Sharks figure to be energized after avoiding another first-round disappointment, while Detroit will have little time to recoup after an emotional Game 7 win in which the Wings were almost flawless. That figures to be an advantage for the Sharks as they try to get the jump on the Wings. Expect San Jose to try to pressure the Wings right off the hop and capitalize on Detroit's lack of rest.