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Despite 3-0 lead, Sharks not taking Wings for granted

by Rick Sadowski /
DETROIT -- The way Evgeni Nabokov sees it, if any team is capable of erasing a 3-0 playoff series deficit, the Detroit Red Wings fit the bill.

"If there is going to be a team, they could be the team that could come back," the San Jose Sharks goalie said after Wednesday's practice.

The Sharks own a 3-0 lead against the Red Wings in the Western Conference Semifinals and will be looking to complete a sweep at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday night and advance to the conference finals for the first time since 2004.

For the Sharks, there is a substantial margin for error, but why give the tournament-tested Red Wings even a glimmer of hope?

"Look at the first round with Washington and Montreal? Did you ever think that would happen?" Nabokov said.

The Canadiens rallied from a 3-1 series deficit against the Capitals to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals -- ample reason for the Sharks to try and dispatch the Red Wings as quickly as possible.

"Our task is not done yet," Nabokov said. "It's not over. Those guys have been there before and they know how to win. We will see their best tomorrow. We know that situation; we've been down three-zip in the past and we came back to 3-2, but it's not an easy task.

"We just have to continue to play the way we've been playing. Don't concentrate on what they're going to do. They're going to throw their best at us. It's going to be the hardest game so far and we are prepared for that."

The Sharks have no interest in joining the 1975 Pittsburgh Penguins and 1942 Red Wings as the only teams in Stanley Cup playoff history to lose a seven-game series after winning the first three games. The Penguins lost to the New York Islanders and the Red Wings were beaten by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"I've probably been on both ends of it before," Sharks captain Rob Blake said of being up or down 3-0 in a series. "It's the same feeling either way -- you come to play. We need to win and they need to win.

"We've been very even-keeled all playoffs, whether we're up or down. That's one thing we've maintained throughout this season on this team. We just play the game the way we're supposed to play it and things will fall into place that way.

"I don't know that we've grinded them down. That's a world class team over there and they're not going to allow that to happen. Their effort will be there tomorrow and ours has to be there, too."

All the Sharks have done is win since dropping a 1-0 overtime decision to Colorado in Game 3 in the opening round when Avalanche rookie Ryan O'Reilly tipped San Jose defenseman Dan Boyle's attempt at sending the puck around the boards behind a startled Nabokov.

The Sharks have reeled off six victories in a row since what could have been a devastating defeat. Instead, they rallied around Boyle.

 "I think we came together more as a team," Nabokov said.

The Sharks have put a huge dent in their reputation as playoff underachievers this postseason, overcoming a 2-1 series deficit against the Avalanche and staging third-period comebacks the past two games against the Red Wings.

"I don't think we as a team are out to convince anybody," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We knew we were a different team (this season) and I guess what we have to do is prove that to the hockey world. But we believed we were different and we believe in each other."

"Our task is not done yet.  It's not over. Those guys have been there before and they know how to win. We will see their best tomorrow." -- Evgeni Nabokov
The same can be said of center Joe Thornton, who received plenty of criticism for past playoff failures. He scored the winning goal in Game 2 against the Red Wings and set up Patrick Marleau for the overtime winner in Game 3.

Virtually silenced in the Colorado series, the Sharks' so-called Big Three of Thornton, Marleau and Dany Heatley has combined for 4 goals and 8 assists against Detroit.

"But don't get me wrong, we're not talking like this is over," McLellan said. "We've got a long way to go and a lot to overcome to work through that."

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