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Red Wings' playoff push continues against Sharks

by Tal Pinchevsky

SHARKS (20-12-7) at RED WINGS (19-15-5)


Last 10: San Jose 7-2-1, Detroit 5-5-0

Season series: This is the third and final meeting of the regular season. They split the first two matchups, with the Sharks winning 2-0 on March 28 after falling 2-1 in the shootout exactly one month earlier.

Big story: With fourth and 13th place in the Western Conference separated by just 10 points, the Sharks and Red Wings are in the thick of a cluttered playoff push. San Jose held fifth place in the conference entering Wednesday's play, while Detroit has dropped four of their last six and are holding on to the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

Team Scope:

Sharks: Following a perfect 7-0-0 record in January, the Sharks went 6-11-6 through February and most of March, causing speculation that the team's run of eight straight playoff berths could end. But San Jose rebounded nicely with a seven-game win streak that started late last month.

That streak ended with a 5-4 shootout loss to Dallas on Sunday, which was followed by a four-game road swing that started Tuesday night in Columbus.

Against the Blue Jackets, the Sharks appeared overmatched against a squad that made headlines at the Trade Deadline for acquiring star wing Marian Gaborik from the New York Rangers. Matt Calvert opened the scoring midway through the first period and Columbus widened the gap in the middle frame as James Wisniewski and Ryan Johansen scored just 1:46 apart.

After assisting on Johansen's marker, Gaborik added a goal in the third following some pretty passing courtesy of former Rangers teammate Artem Anisimov. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 30 shots for Columbus to secure the 4-0 shutout win and hand the Sharks their first losing streak in almost a month.

Red Wings: A 5-1-0 stretch last month put the Red Wings in a favorable position heading into the late-season playoff push. But they've gone 2-4-0 since then, combining for just nine goals in that span and putting their incredible streak of 21 straight postseason appearances in jeopardy. Heading in to Wednesday night's action, Detroit was just two points ahead of Dallas and Columbus, which had played one extra game.

A big divisional win on Sunday against the St. Louis Blues would have helped the Red Wings' cause. But Chris Porter scored the game's only goal and the Red Wings failed to beat Brian Elliott as they suffered a 1-0 defeat and were shut out for the second time in a week despite holding a 28-25 shot advantage.

"I liked our game," coach Mike Babcock said. "If we just keep doing the things we did today and keep working hard, things will go our way."

Who's hot: Brent Burns has eight points in his past nine games for the Sharks, while TJ Galiardi has three points in his past four games. … For the Wings, Gustav Nyquist has three points in his past four games while Henrik Zetterberg has eight points in his past 10 games.

Injury report: San Jose activated forward Tim Kennedy from injured reserve this week and he is questionable for Thursday's game. Defenseman Scott Hannan (neck) remains out indefinitely. … For Detroit, forwards Darren Helm (back) and Mikael Samuelsson (upper body) are out, as is wing Todd Bertuzzi, who has been out two months but is traveling with the team. Rookie Damien Brunner returns to the lineup after missing three games with a sore hip flexor.

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