SHARKS (31-18-7) AT RED WINGS (40-17-2)
TV: NBC (HD), NHLN-CA
Last 10: San Jose 5-4-1; Detroit 7-2-1
Season Series: The Sharks have won both meetings this season, have beaten Detroit in five straight regular-season games dating back to last season and have knocked the Red Wings out of the playoffs each of the past two seasons. San Jose contributed to Detroit's season-high six-game winless streak with a 4-2 victory on Oct. 28 at Joe Louis Arena, just a week before Detroit's ongoing NHL record home win streak of 22 games began.
Big Story: Many who are familiar with this rivalry look at the Red Wings’ impressive win streak at Joe Louis Arena and noticed the elephant in the room. Not one win among those 22 came against the Sharks – who seem to have a lock on the Wings’ kryptonite. That being said, San Jose has dropped two straight games and comes into the Motor City in the middle of a monster nine-game road trip. These aren’t the
same Red Wings they last saw during their last trip to Detroit three days before Halloween. Regardless of the hurdles put in front of them, if the Wings are at home it’s a safe bet they will somehow find a way to come out victorious. They’ve won in blowouts, nail-biters, overtimes and shootouts at Joe Louis Arena, and now they’re affixing a collective chip to their shoulder because of San Jose’s recent dominance against them.
“I think you're looking at any motivation you can to get wins this late in the season and that's one of them,” Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said of proving they can beat the Sharks. “Another one is trying to keep the streak going, keep playing well at home and get two points.''
Sharks: San Jose has a little bit of breathing room over the second-place Phoenix Coyotes in the Pacific Division, but the Sharks can’t afford to let this two-game skid become something bigger. Should Phoenix catch San Jose for first in the Pacific, the Sharks risk falling from third in the Western Conference toward the bottom of the
top eight. San Jose coach Todd McLellan didn’t officially announce his starting goalie, but Antti Niemi is expected to get the nod despite some recent struggles to stop the puck. Unlike some of the teams who’ve come into Detroit during the latter portion of the Wings’ impressive home winning streak, the Sharks aren’t likely to let it get to them mentally.
"They’re obviously playing extremely well [at home],” McLellan said. “There’s been a lot of teams who’ve come in here and tried to [end the streak]. Some have come extremely close. Others haven’t. We’re going to take our kick at the cat [on Sunday] and see what we can do.”
Red Wings: Detroit has won games during this amazing streak in just about every way imaginable. That said, Pavel Datsyuk’s game-winning goal on Friday night with just 5.8 seconds left in regulation to beat Nashville was crazy even by the streak’s standards. It’s almost as if the Wings are willing these wins to happen of late, which gives them even more confidence. Journeyman backup goalie Joey MacDonald has won five straight starts – all at the “Joe” – in place of injured starter Jimmy Howard. He will get the chance to make it six against San Jose.
“MacDonald is playing too good,” coach Mike Babcock said. “It gives [Howard] two more days to practice. Why would I rush it when the other guy’s playing good?''
Who's Hot: Joe Pavelski has scored 5 goals and added 5 assists in the past 10 games, while Logan Couture has 6 goals and 10 assists in the past 12 contests for the Sharks. … Detroit’s Datsyuk has 2 goals and 2 assists in the past three games, while Henrik Zetterberg has tallied points in six of the past seven games (3 goals and 7 assists).
Injury Report: Martin Havlat (lower body) Jim Vandermeer (upper body) and Douglas Murray (upper body) are out for the Sharks, while Howard (fractured finger), Danny Cleary (knee) and Patrick Eaves (upper body, concussion) won’t play for the Red Wings.
Stat Pack: San Jose’s power play is clicking at a 21 percent clip (40-for-190), which ranks near the top of the League but the penalty kill is struggling at 78 percent efficiency (35 goals allowed in 159 attempts; Detroit’s defensemen have combined to score 35 goals this season.
Puck Drop: The Red Wings held their off-day practice on Saturday in preparation for the Sharks outside at Clark Park on Detroit’s West side. It was the first time the team has practiced outside in the city in eight decades.