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Oct. 21: Look ahead in Hockeytown

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Daniel Cleary and the Red Wings will have their hands full with trying to slow down Patrick Marleau, who has at least one point in all eight games this season for the Sharks. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT – It’ll be an interesting week in Hockeytown as the Red Wings return home to host the NHL’s best team, Daniel Alfredsson’s old team, and Darren Helm gets set to return to the lineup.

The Wings will face-off against the red-hot San Jose Sharks tonight. The Sharks are the only team that hasn’t lost a game in regulation. The Ottawa Senators come to Joe Louis Arena on Wednesday. It’ll be the first time the two clubs meet as Atlantic Division rivals and the first time Alfredsson will go against his former club.

But the biggest, most anticipated news of the week is the anticipated return of Helm, who has played just one game in the last 19 months.

“He said the back felt great, conditioning and timing have a little ways to go,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “From a healthy standpoint, everything is well and he’s looking forward to being in the lineup this weekend.”

Helm, who has been covering from a lower back injury that he suffered last January, was sent to Grand Rapids on a rehabilitation assignment last week. With the Griffins, he played in two AHL games with no points, an even plus/minus rating, and more importantly, no problems.

“No issues with his back,” Holland said.

Like Helm, fourth-line forward Patrick Eaves is expected to come off of long-term injured reserve. Eaves is eligible to return this Thursday after he suffered a sprained left MCL and ankle during a collision in training camp.

The Wings will need to make two moves to clear roster spots for Helm and Eaves.

With that, here’s a look ahead to this week in Hockeytown:

Center  - SJS
Goals: 7 | Assists: 3 | Pts: 10
Shots: 24 | +/-: 8
MONDAY – vs. SAN JOSE (7-1-0): The only team without a loss in regulation, the Sharks come to town for the first and last time this season. The Sharks are the only team in NHL history to start back to back seasons with 6-0 records, or better. … They’re averaging league-highs for goals (4.88) and shots (40.2) per game, and have four players – Joe Pavelski (12), Patrick Marleau (11), Logan Couture (11) Joe Thornton (11), and rookie Tomas Hertl (10) in the top 10 in league scoring. The Sharks have out-scored their opponents 33-12, and are also among the league leaders in face-off wins, blocked shots and takeaways. … San Jose has had seven different players (Justin Braun, Hertl, Matthew Nieto, Matt Pelech, Brent Burns, Tommy Wingels, Marleau) record game-winning goals in each of its seven victories this season. … Marleau is among three players to register at least one point in each of his team’s game this season. Calgary’s Jiri Hudler and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby are the others.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Hertl was named the league’s First Star last week. The 19-year-old center led the NHL with five goals in three games, beginning the week by scoring four goals, capped by a highlight-reel, between-the-legs shot, in a 9-2 victory over the New York Rangers. Hertl is the fourth-youngest player all-time to score four goals in an NHL game and youngest to do so since March 20, 1988, when Los Angeles' Jimmy Carson tallied four times in a 9-7 win over Calgary. The Czech Republic, native then logged 16:37 of ice-time and three shots on goal in a 4-1 win over Vancouver and closed the week by scoring his league-leading seventh goal in a 3-2 victory over the Senators. The 17th overall pick by San Jose in the 2012 NHL draft, Hertl leads all rookies and is tied for second in the league with seven goals and three assists in eight games.

Center  - OTT
Goals: 5 | Assists: 3 | Pts: 8
Shots: 22 | +/-: -2
WEDNESDAY – vs. OTTAWA (3-3-2): This is a game that many Senators’ fans have been waiting for, or more likely loathing, to see their team’s former longtime captain in a different sweater. It’ll be the first time that Daniel Alfredsson faces off against his former team. … This will be the seventh road game already for the Senators, who have played just twice at home so far this season. The Sens have registered a 2-2-2 road record. Bobby Ryan (three goals, two assists) and Jason Spezza (four goals, one assist) share the team-lead with five points respectively on the road. Spezza leads the team with four road goals, while Kyle Turris and Patrick Wiercioch share the away assist lead with four each. … The Senators have overcome 37 of 44 (84.1 percent) shorthanded situations this season after leading the NHL in penalty kill efficiency (88 percent) last season. … Former Red Wings assistant coach Paul MacLean begins his third campaign as the Sens’ head coach. MacLean is the 10th head coach in franchise history and currently ranks fourth all-time among team coaches in victories with 69.

PLAYER TO WATCH: In September, Spezza was appointed the eighth captain in franchise history succeeding Alfredsson, who signed a one-year contract with Detroit during the offseason. Spezza, a Mississauga, Ontario, native is the current active franchise leader in goals (233), assists (396), points (629) and only trails Chris Phillips (+81) for the active lead in plus-minus rating (+78). Spezza has six points – including a natural hat trick in an overtime win at Phoenix last Tuesday – in the last three games. He has five goals and three assists in seven games. He’s battled a sore groin since training camp, but the injury has held him out of one game, an OT loss at Los Angeles on Oct. 9. … In eight career games against the Red Wings, Spezza has produced three goals, three assists and a minus-3 rating.

Goalie  - NYR
Record: 2-4-0
GAA: 3.45 | Sv%: .890
SATURDAY – vs. NEW YORK RANGERS (2-5-0): The Rangers are wrapping up a nine-game road trip to open up the season. This will be the 5,950th all-time game in Rangers’ franchise history. … All seven of the Rangers’ games have been decided by at least two-goals this season. They’ve lost a league-high four games by three goals or more, including 9-2 (at San Jose), 6-0 (at Anaheim), and 4-0 (at New Jersey). … The Rangers have been out-scored, 14-5, this season and have a league-worst -18 goal differential. … The Rangers out-shot Washington, 36-22, last Wednesday at Washington, including a 21-6 advantage in the second period. The 36 shots were a Rangers’ season-high, while their 21 SOG in the middle frame were the most for the Blueshirts in a single period since March 15, 2011 vs. the Islanders. … After 16 seasons, backup goalie Martin Biron announced his retirement on Sunday. The 36-year-old logged 508 regular-season games for Buffalo, Philadelphia and both New York franchises, and played in 23 postseason games, most recently with the Flyers in 2009. … Injured forwards Rick Nash (concussion) and Carl Hagelin (shoulder), a former standout at the University of Michigan, are out indefinitely.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Henrik Lundqvist is one of four active NHL goalies to register 20 wins in eight consecutive seasons, and the only one with an active streak. New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur (12), Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo (9), and Pittsburgh’s Tomas Vokoun (9) are the others. The former Vezina Trophy recipient was a finalist for the award last season, the fifth time in his eight-season career that he has been a finalist. Lundqvist finished last season tied for the league lead with 24 wins to become the first Rangers’ goalie to lead the category since Mike Richter won an astonishing 42 games in 1993-94. … In five career starts against the Red Wings, Lundqvist has posted a 1-3-1 record with a 3.19 GAA, his worst against all league teams.

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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