-- Based on the recent past, it probably isn't just a coincidence the Detroit Red Wings
have rattled off an NHL record 22 straight home victories without once facing the San Jose Sharks
Not only have the Sharks knocked the Red Wings from the playoffs in the Western Conference semifinals the past two seasons, but San Jose has also won five straight regular-season games against Detroit regardless of location.
That includes a 4-2 victory at Joe Louis Arena on Oct. 28, which still stands as one of just two regulation losses for the Red Wings on their home ice this season. Think there isn't some extra importance being placed on the Sharks' second visit to the Motor City by Detroit on Sunday (12:30 p.m., NBC)?
"They've beat us every time we played them this year," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "It must be time to say, 'Enough's enough.' We got to do something about that. They're a good team. They're on a long road trip. We've played well at home. They should throw the puck to the net a lot, got big forwards, they're active on the back end, so it should be a fun game."
San Jose expects nothing less.
"They've definitely won some games here at home 3-2 or 2-1, so they've found ways to win," Sharks forward Ryane Clowe
said after a practice on Saturday at Joe Louis Arena. "I expect a tight game, but it's important for us to have a good start."
When did the Sharks start to take notice of the Wings' impressive home winning streak?
"I think when they got around 16 or 17 wins and got closer to breaking the [old record of 20]," Clowe said. "There were games in there where they just won by a goal or won in a shootout, so they were finding ways to win. I expect them to be fired up for us. We've played them a couple times and beat them, so they'll be ready. But we've got to get our own streak going here."
will likely be in goal to start for the Sharks, who've lost two straight games and find themselves looking for a turnaround game in the middle of a brutal nine-game road trip. Niemi hasn't been on top of his game of late, but coming to Detroit always seems to cure whatever ails him.'
The Finnish goalie has played well inside Joe Louis Arena since his days playing with the Chicago Blackhawks
"We've been able to play some better games here," Niemi said. "That's something that gives us extra confidence, for sure. I've felt good playing here so far. I think playing a top team, you don't need to dig deep to get the motivation when you play these guys."
Still, Detroit's streak can't be overlooked.
"That's unbelievable," Niemi said. "You would think you would have some bad bounces, and it would be almost impossible to do. It's hard to win a couple of back-to-back games, even at home. Doing it that many times? It's huge."