SAN JOSE,Calif. -- The Sharks are looking for a hero to emerge Thursday night in Game 7 of their Western Conference semifinals series against Detroit,but at this point they don't know if forward Ryane Clowe will even be a candidate.
Clowe,the team's leading scorer in the playoffs with 13 points,missed Game 6 at Detroit with an upper-body injury and was not on the ice when the Sharks held a brief practice Wednesday afternoon. Coach Todd McLellan said Clowe was "better today" and will be a game-time decision.
"He was at the rink,he had a treatment,he went home. He'll skate in the morning and if he can play,he'll play," McLellan said.
The Sharks certainly could have used Clowe on Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena when they were outshot 45-25 in a 3-1 loss.
"He's a big loss,and it's an opportunity for other guys to step up," defenseman Dan Boyle said. "Hopefully we'll see him in the lineup,and if we don't,we'll find a way to win without him."
After taking a 3-0 lead in the series,the Sharks have lost three straight games to the Red Wings and are one loss away from making some ignominious NHL history. Only three teams have lost a series after leading 3-0: the 1942 Red Wings,1975 Penguins and 2010 Bruins.
"Especially after the last game,we want to redeem ourselves," said rookie Logan Couture,who scored his team's lone goal Tuesday but also committed a turnover that led to the Wings' go-ahead goal. "Personally I want to redeem myself for the way I played. Game 7 there's just going to be a hero,whether it's on our team or their team. There's 20-plus guys in this room that want to be it. Looking forward to see someone step up,and I know it's going to be in our room."
Home ice certainly doesn't guarantee victory for the Sharks,but it all but guarantees more energy and more shots on goal than they've produced in Detroit,particularly in Game 6.
Consider the numbers through six games in the series. In the three games played at HP Pavilion,the Sharks outshot the Red Wings 125-81. Detroit outshot San Jose 123-94 in the three games played at Joe Louis Arena.
There was no more dramatic example of home-ice energy than the shot totals in Games 5 and 6. In Game 5 at HP Pavilion,the Sharks outshot Detroit 42-22. In Game 6 at Joe Louis,the Red Wings outshot San Jose 45-25. That's a 40-shot swing.
"That's what you play the whole season for,to get home-ice advantage," forward Devin Setoguchi said. "The energy from the building feeds off on you. I wouldn't say you feel more comfortable in your home rink,but you've just got the sense you're at home. You take pride in playing in your own building. So it definitely gives the guys extra energy and an extra boost."
Getting Clowe back would provide an even bigger boost.
"He's one of our better players. He's our leader in the room," Couture said. "On the ice he leads by example. If Clowie plays,he'll help us. If he doesn't,other guys will have to step up."
One of those guys could be Ben Eager,who won a Stanley Cup last year with the Blackhawks. Eager has typically been on the fourth line,but he practiced in Clowe's spot on the second line Wednesday,playing with Couture and Dany Heatley.
In Game 6 without Clowe,McLellan juggled his lines from the outset. Couture moved to the top line,playing alongside center Joe Thornton,while Patrick Marleau took Couture's spot as the second-line center. Forward Torrey Mitchell went from the third to the second line,and Benn Ferriero from the fourth to the third.
"Last game the lines kind of got shuffled with just one player out," Eager said. "So maybe if this is the lineup,everyone sticks with familiar faces and get back to where we were. But obviously we're hoping Clowie plays."
Of course it could be that McLellan expects Clowe to return and wanted his regular lines to work together with Eager just plugging Clowe's spot.
Despite losing three straight games,the Sharks projected confidence Wednesday -- in large part because Game 7 is on their home ice. The Sharks won two of those three games at the Shark Tank; the lone loss came in Game 5 when they built a 3-1 lead early in the third period but allowed three unanswered goals.
"Confident. Very confident. Extremely confident," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said of his team's mentality.
But if the Sharks are searching for even more positive energy after three negative outcomes,here's one historical nugget: San Jose is 4-2 in Game 7s. Their most recent Game 7 came in the 2008 quarterfinals against Calgary at HP Pavilion. Joe Pavelski scored the game-winning goal in a 5-3 Sharks victory.
The Sharks' most memorable Game 7 win came in 1994 against these same Red Wings in a first-round series – San Jose's first playoff appearance. Jamie Baker's goal gave the Sharks an improbable 3-2 victory and a series win.
"We're ready to go," Boyle said. "I think we believe in each other. That's probably the most important part. We're going to lean on each other through this and believe in this locker room,and we're going to find a way to pull this one out."