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Wings drub Sharks in "Best of the West" battle

by Brian Compton
The San Jose Sharks might want to make sure they finish first in the Western Conference. By the looks of it, they'll need the home-ice advantage if they have to face the Detroit Red Wings

For the second time in as many visits this season, San Jose was no match for Detroit at Joe Louis Arena, as Henrik Zetterberg scored twice and Ty Conklin made 34 saves in a 4-1 rout. The Sharks -- who lead the Western Conference with 91 points -- have been outscored 10-1 in two games in Motown this season.

Despite the loss, which ended a four-game winning streak, San Jose is three points ahead of No. 2 Detroit with two games in hand. Both teams won their two home games in the four-game season series -- an indication that the home-ice advantage will be crucial come playoff time.

Still, there's a long way to go before the conference finals arrive. Since 1999, the top two teams have met in the Western finals just three times.

"We can't look that far ahead," said Conklin, who has won 12 straight starts at home.

Detroit's Marian Hossa scored the first goal of the game, but the team held him out of the third period for precautionary reasons because he had concussion-like symptoms.

"He'll be fine,'' Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said.

Zetterberg -- who signed a 12-year extension with the Wings last month -- was more than fine. Truth be told, he stole the show.

The Swedish star gave Detroit a 3-0 lead 4:08 into the second period on a highlight-reel tally. Despite the fact that Pavel Datsyuk was serving a tripping penalty, Zetterberg blocked a shot in his own end, raced with the puck up the ice, did a 360-degree spin between the circles and snapped a wrist shot past Evgeni Nabokov for his 23rd goal of the season. Ville Leino had scored late in the first to put Detroit up by a pair.

"We've grown accustomed to watching him play like that,'' Babcock said of Zetterberg.

Christian Ehrhoff quickly made it a two-goal game again when he beat Conklin on a power-play goal at 6:25 of the second. It was the lone blemish on Conklin's night, as another Sharks' goal was taken away after a video review.

Zetterberg made it a 4-1 game with a power-play goal with 2:57 left in regulation. With the Wings on a two-man advantage, Zetterberg started to wrap around the net for a shot only to stop, pivot and put the puck into the short side.

''I've seen Hank do that a lot,'' said San Jose coach Todd McLellan, who was Babcock's assistant in Detroit during last season's championship run. ''He holds on to the puck a little longer than most.''

After the game, Ehrhoff was still amazed by Zetterberg's first goal.

''I tried to get back,'' said Ehrhoff, who helplessly tried to defend on the play. ''It would've been nice if I stopped as quick as him, but I couldn't.''

With only 21 games remaining in the regular season, Zetterberg is focused on helping his team gain home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. The Red Wings are 23-4-3 at Joe Louis Arena this season.

"For sure, we want the first seed," Zetterberg said. "But it's going to be tough because they're ahead of us with 21 games left."

Even after the convincing victory, Zetterberg says until his squad proves otherwise, the Sharks are the team to beat.

"For sure, we want the first seed. But it's going to be tough because they're ahead of us with 21 games left." -- Henrik Zetterberg
"They're ahead of us," Zetterberg said. "You can't live in the past. We played a solid 60 minute game. All four lines worked really good, and Conks was solid back there. It was a good game."

Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.   

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