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Sharks try to avoid being swept by Wings

by Brian Compton

SHARKS (39-12-9) at RED WINGS (27-21-11)

Last 10 -- San Jose 7-2-1; Detroit 3-4-3.

Season series -- This is the final meeting between the teams. Detroit is going for a sweep of the four-game season series. The Wings won the most recent showdown, a 4-2 decision at HP Pavilion on Feb. 2. Derek Meech notched the game-winner early in the third period.

Big story -- The Red Wings received a huge boost with the return of power forward Johan Franzen on Tuesday night. "The Mule" received 17:28 of ice time and had an assist in a 4-3 shootout loss at St. Louis.

"It felt like the last game I played," said Franzen, who missed 55 games with a torn ACL. "I thought it was going to be worse. Better than I thought it was going to be."

Team Scope:

Sharks -- San Jose saw its 10-game road winning streak end on Wednesday night with a 3-0 loss at Columbus. It certainly wasn't due to a lack of effort, as the Sharks peppered Steve Mason with 40 shots, but the second-year pro earned his second shutout in three games.

Afterwards, though, San Jose coach Todd McLellan pinned it on his players.

"I think it was more our guys tonight than Mason," McLellan said. "It's disappointing that for 40 minutes we didn't have a lot of pop."

Red Wings -- The Wings needed a rally just to earn a point on Tuesday night, but they did just that as Pavel Datsyuk and Valtteri Filppula scored 3:14 apart late in the third period to force overtime. Jimmy Howard made 42 saves in the shootout loss to the Blues at the ScottradeCenter.

"We showed a lot of fight coming back," Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "We played as a desperate team, we were the ones getting the pucks to the net and crashing the net and getting rewarded, too."

Who's hot -- Howard has started 21 of Detroit's last 23 games and has emerged as a legitimate candidate for the Calder Trophy. Overall, he is 20-13-7 with a 2.33 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage.

Injury report -- Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic (upper body) is out, while Manny Malhotra (lower body) is day-to-day. … Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall (knee) is expected to return on Thursday night, while Tomas Holmstrom (knee) is day-to-day. Andreas Lilja (post-concussion syndrome) and Patrick Eaves (ankle) are out.

Stat pack -- San Jose's loss on Wednesday night was just its second regulation defeat in the last 15 games. … Wings center Kris Draper scored his first goal in 30 games on Tuesday.

Puck drop -- "I got a phone call and was asked if I wanted (to go). This is like winning the lottery. This team has everything." -- Defenseman Niclas Wallin after being acquired by San Jose from last-place Carolina on Sunday

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