RED WINGS (22-15-6) at SHARKS (28-9-7)
Last 10 - Detroit 5-4-1; San Jose 9-1-0
Season series -- This is the second of four meetings. On Nov. 5, the Red Wings scored a 2-1 come-from-behind shootout win against the Sharks at Joe Louis Arena. Henrik Zetterberg scored early in the third period, and he and Pavel Datsyuk connected in the shootout for the win. Goalie Chris Osgood made 33 saves for Detroit. Logan Couture scored his first NHL goal and Evgeni Nabokov stopped 35 shots for the Sharks.
Big story -- The Sharks are their typical high-scoring dominating selves; a perennial League powerhouse. The same used to be said of Detroit, but it's been a trying 2009-10 campaign for the Wings. Despite the fact that 17 players are left from Detroit's 2007-08 Stanley Cup championship team, the injury-plagued Wings are three points behind Los Angeles for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot -- after winning eight consecutive division titles and recording a League-record nine straight 100-point seasons. The Wings haven't missed the postseason since 1989-90, when they finished five points behind eighth-place Los Angeles in the West. The 18-year playoff run is the longest active one in pro sports.
Red Wings -- This is the fourth game in a five-game road trip that includes wins over the Coyotes and Kings and a loss to the Ducks. On Thursday, rookie goalie Jimmy Howard made 51 saves and Darren Helm scored with 17.9 seconds left to defeat Los Angeles 2-1.
In Thursday's game, the Wings welcomed back key forwards Zetterberg and Dan Cleary, both of whom were missing for the last month with shoulder injuries. However, before the game it was revealed that left wing Tomas Holmstrom will be sidelined for at least three weeks with a non-displaced fracture in his foot, suffered during practice on Wednesday.
Holmstrom, a 13-year veteran who has helped Detroit win four Stanley Cups, leads the team with 15 goals. His injury left Nicklas Lidstrom, Brad Stuart and Todd Bertuzzi as the only players to appear in all 43 games this season for Detroit.
Sharks -- This is the final game in a four-game homestand that included wins against the Oilers and Blues sandwiched around a 6-2 loss against the Kings.
Dany Heatley's breakaway goal with 54 seconds left in overtime -- San Jose's 44th shot of the night -- gave the Sharks a 2-1 victory against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday. The victory, the Sharks' ninth in 10 games, gave San Jose 63 points. San Jose is two behind Chicago for first place in the overall standings.
While all seems well for the Sharks, they're thriving without much of a contribution from winger Devin Setoguchi, who is on pace for 21 goals and 31 points after totaling 31-34-65 in 81 games last season. He has only 1 goal and 3 points in his last 10 games. Coach Todd McLellan told the San Jose Mercury-News that he's looking for more consistency from Setoguchi.
"We've tried to hug him. We've tried to boot him. We've tried him in different situations with different linemates," McLellan said. "Sometimes that's worked and sometimes it hasn't."
Who's hot -- For the Red Wings, Pavel Datsyuk has 2 goals and 2 assists in four games, Lidstrom has 7 assists in six games, Helm has 4 goals in four games, and Todd Bertuzzi has 8 goals and 4 assists in 13 games. For the Sharks, Joe Thornton has 4 goals and 10 assists in 10 games, Patrick Marleau has 3 goals and an assist in three games, Heatley has 4 goals and 6 assists in nine games, and Doug Murray has 2 goals and an assist in three games.
Injury report -- For the Red Wings, Niklas Kronwall (sprained left MCL), Andreas Lilja (concussion), Jason Williams (broken fibula) and Johan Franzen (knee) are on injured reserve, and Jonathan Ericsson (knee) and Holmstrom (foot) are still out. For the Sharks, center Manny Malhotra (lower-body) is day-to-day.
Stat pack -- San Jose will send a League-high eight players to the Winter Olympics -- Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle of Canada; Thomas Griess of Germany; Evgeni Nabokov of Russia; Doug Murray of Sweden; and Joe Pavelski of the United States. … The Red Wings include seven Olympians -- Brian Rafalski of the United States; Datsyuk of Russia; Valtteri Filppula of Finland; and Lidstrom, Kronwall, Holmstrom and Zetterberg of Sweden. … Detroit's penalty kill has killed off 62 of 69 penalties taken over the last 19 games. … Ryane Clowe and Thornton of San Jose both converted penalty shots vs. Washington on Dec. 30, marking only the second time in the history of the NHL that a team converted two penalty shots in one game. The last time this occurred in the NHL was 27 years ago (Vancouver at Detroit on Feb. 11, 1982 when Thomas Gradin and Ivan Hlinka scored for the Canucks.
Puck drop -- "It's been amazing how long we haven't had these guys. The guys have done a really good job to buy us time in the meantime, but ... it's time. We've got to put some runs together, and it's going to take good runs over a long period of time to get us into the position we want to be." -- Wings coach Mike Babcock to the Detroit Free Press on dealing with numerous injuries