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Wings hope home ice will help vs. Sharks

by John Kreiser

(San Jose leads best-of-seven series 2-0)

TV: VERSUS (HD), TSN2 (HD); CSN-California (HD), FS-Detroit (HD)

Big story:
The series returns to Detroit with the Wings desperately needing a win after losing back-to-back 2-1 decisions in San Jose.

Team scope:

: On a team with stars like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau up front and Dan Boyle on the blue line, Douglas Murray tends to be forgotten. Murray doesn't generate a lot of offense, but the 240-pound defenseman's ability to clear the space in front of the net is invaluable.

"He's a huge body," Marleau told the Sharks' website. "He keeps the forwards on their toes because they know he's out there. He can step up in the neutral zone and lay a big bone crushing hit as well. He likes the rough stuff and doesn't shy away from it. He goes towards it and makes guys uncomfortable."

No one appreciates Murray more than goaltender Antti Niemi.

"He's the type of player goalies really need," Niemi said. "When he's on the ice, he's playing defense first. Mentally, he's like a second goalie, blocking shots, blocking passes and being strong in front of the net."

Red Wings: The Wings haven't been vastly inferior to the Sharks in Games 1 and 2 -- but San Jose has been just good enough to score the extra goal. Coach Mike Babcock feels the Wings' forwards have to step up their play.

"I want our forwards to spend more time in the offensive zone with sustained pressure," Babcock said after Tuesday's practice. "And we can backcheck harder. We can be harder all over -- all our forwards. That has nothing to do with who's playing."

Captain Nicklas Lidstrom agrees that the Wings need more bodies in front of Niemi.

"We've had some shots, but we haven't had any traffic," Lidstrom told the team's website. "We need to be there for the rebounds and second chances and create more traffic in front of him. I think we can do a much better job of getting pucks there, but having people there as well."

Don't be surprised if the Wings change some line pairings. Babcock split up Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg at Tuesday's practice, and Kris Draper may return to the lineup to center the fourth line.

Who's hot: Niemi has stopped 57 of 59 shots in the first two games. ... Datsyuk leads Detroit in postseason scoring with 8 points and has assists on both of his team's goals in this series

Injury report: The Sharks are as healthy as a team can be at this stage of the season. ... Detroit defenseman Brian Rafalski (knee) didn't skate Tuesday, but coach Mike Babcock said he will play in Game 3.

Stat pack:
Detroit is just 5-21 all-time when losing the first two games of a playoff series and only 2-6 when facing the same situation during their 20-year run of postseason appearances. ... All four playoff goals scored by San Jose defenseman Niclas Wallin in his career have been game-winners, including his third-period goal on Sunday.

Puck drop: San Jose has won 10 of the last 12 meetings with Detroit, including six of seven in the playoffs, but the Sharks are anything but overconfident as they head to Detroit for Games 3 and 4.

"I don't think we expect to blow Detroit out any time we play them," forward Ryane Clowe said. "The fact that we're beating Detroit in one-goal games, it's a good sign of experience and composure."

Babcock wasn't making any excuses for the deficit his team is facing.

"All I know is they won 4-1 last year and they're up 2-0 this year," Babcock said. "By my math, that's 6-1. So the bottom line is we've got to win a game and we've got to win our next game. That's the way we're looking at it

"There's no question what the body of work describes. They've been better than us. If we want to keep playing, we've got to be better than them."
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