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Sharks, Wings see opportunity in front of them

by Dave Lozo /
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- It's pretty surprising this Western Conference Semifinal has reached a Game 7 after the Sharks jumped to a 3-0 series lead on the Detroit Red Wings, who now have a chance to become for the fourth team in NHL history to come all the way back from that hole.

But the first thing that popped into the head of Sharks forward Devin Setoguchi when asked about playing a Game 7 was something he had just learned about one of his teammates.

"Dany Heatley hasn't played in a Game 7," Setoguchi said. "I found that pretty cool."

A Game 7 is always something special that few players get a chance to experience, even a successful veteran like Heatley. For Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk, who has had his fair share of Game 7 experience, he went all the way back to his rookie season of 2002 to discuss a Game 7 memory.

"Most of the time I was on the bench watching how good everyone played," said Datsyuk, who had 1 goal in 11:49 of ice time when the Red Wings beat the Avalanche 7-0 to win the Western Conference Final in seven games. Datsyuk's goal was scored in the third period with the game out of hand. "When it was 6-0, they put me on late just to skate around."

Both the Sharks and Red Wings said during the past two days that they were prepared for a seven-game series from the outset, and that it didn't matter how they wound up here for Thursday night's Game 7 (9 p.m. ET, Versus, TSN, RDS) at HP Pavilion.

"It's come down to one game," Setoguchi said. "There's no turning back now. Whatever happened in the last six games is over with. You get one chance, one opportunity to seize the moment that you're in and get the win to win the series."

Sharks captain Joe Thornton believes the best thing anyone playing in a Game 7 can do is treat it like any other game during the regular season.

"I think you try to keep everything normal, keep your rituals the same," Thornton said. "In your head, just go over what you usually do in the 82 games you played. You have to keep it as normal as possible."

The Sharks and Red Wings may also be back at full strength. Ryane Clowe (upper body) and Johan Franzen (ankle) took part in Thursday's morning skates. Their respective coaches called them game-time decisions, but both Clowe and Franzen appeared to be mostly pain-free while on the ice.

This series has been about as even as it gets. The teams have been tied or separated by one goal for 90 percent of the time (336:43 of 376:24). Every game has been decided by one goal except Game 6, which the Red Wings won 3-1 with the help of an empty-net goal by Darren Helm.

That performance has put the Red Wings on the cusp of history. Only three teams have won a series after trailing 3-0. Of the 167 teams who have faced a 3-0 series hole, only 1.8 percent have accomplished the comeback.

The Red Wings have taken it the clichéd one game at a time. But it's a cliché that has taken them from the abyss to the fifth Game 7 of this year's postseason.

"I've said the same thing all along -- I think we have two good teams and there's a fine line," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "I think we've skated better and better every game. I think today's game is all about opportunity and enjoying yourself. When you look back at your career, how many Game 7s do you get to be involved in? It helps to enjoy it. Enjoy the day leading up to it and play."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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