Season series: This is the first of four meetings this season between teams that met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring. Detroit won the first three regular-season matchups on the 2009-10 schedule, but San Jose averted a sweep with a shootout victory in the finale, and the Sharks then ousted the Red Wings in five games during the Western Conference Semifinals. All four wins came by a single goal.
Big story: After needing a post-Olympics surge to solidify its playoff positioning and seven games to get past Phoenix in the first round before falling victim to San Jose, the dominant Detroit squad the NHL was used to seeing for over a decade appears to be back. Following a home-and-home sweep of the Blue Jackets, the Red Wings have a West-leading 32 points as they embark on a three-game California road trip.
Red Wings: Upstart Columbus had pulled into a first-place tie and was challenging for sole possession of the Central Division lead when Detroit visited Nationwide Arena on Friday. The Red Wings pulled out a 2-1 victory that night and doubled up the Blue Jackets 4-2 at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday to create a four-point gap in the standings. Jimmy Howard stopped 61 of 64 shots in the two games and Valtteri Filppula scored the winning goal each game.
"They both were really close games and they could have gone either way," Filppula said. "Obviously, happy that we came out with a win."
Sharks: This is the only home game San Jose will play between Thanksgiving and a Dec. 11 date with Chicago. The Sharks just got back from a brief journey through Western Canada, getting blown out by the Canucks and edging the Oilers, and start a five-game road trip Thursday. Dany Heatley scored a pair of goals and assisted on Joe Pavelski's game-winner in Saturday's 4-3 win in Edmonton.
"Any win is important for our team right now, but obviously we hadn't won (on the road) since we had been here a few weeks ago," coach Todd McLellan said. "The way we won is probably more important than the win itself."
Who's hot:Todd Bertuzzi has 1 goal and 3 assists during a four-game points streak for the Red Wings. Johan Franzen has 3 goals and 2 assists in the last five games. ... Heatley has 4 goals in his last three games and Joe Thornton has 5 assists during that span.
Injury report: Detroit forward Mike Modano is expected to miss at least two months after right wrist surgery. Also sidelined are goalie Chris Osgood (groin) and forward Kris Draper (sports hernia). ... San Jose defenseman Jason Demers (upper body) is on injured reserve, while defensemen Niclas Wallin (leg) and Kent Huskins (undisclosed), and forwards Devin Setoguchi (undisclosed) and Scott Nichol (facial laceration) are day-to-day.
Stat pack:Danny Cleary has 10 goals in 21 games, putting him halfway to the career-high 20 he scored for the Red Wings in two consecutive seasons from 2006-08. ... The Sharks' Justin Braun contributed a pair of assists, was plus-2 and logged 22:48 of ice time in just his second NHL game, stepping up after Wallin and Huskins departed early against the Oilers.
Puck drop: There's a chance San Jose will have to go through Detroit again in the 2011 postseason in order to realize its goal of reaching the Stanley Cup Final and playing for a championship. Although these teams hail from different divisions, the rivalry between them figures to be fierce.