A possible preview of the Western Conference final will be staged Thursday in Detroit when the red-hot San Jose Sharks invade Joe Louis Arena to battle the defending Stanley Cup champion Red Wings.
The anticipated matchup pitting the top two teams in the West is the second meeting between the clubs this season. In the earlier contest on Oct. 30, San Jose scored a 4-2 victory as Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov made 25 saves. In the post-game press conference following the game, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock admitted his team got "winged."
"I thought they did everything exactly like we try to do," Babcock said. "They just did it better."
The fact San Jose coach Todd McLellan spent three seasons as an assistant to Babcock in Detroit before taking the reigns as head coach in San Jose last June probably had a lot to do with that.
"Todd and I have texted and talked a couple of times and I'm thrilled for him," Babcock told NHL.com. "He's doing a real good job and he's got a real hungry team. They have had tons of success and haven't had the playoff success they wanted. He's got his guys chomping and they've come of age. Adding (Dan) Boyle and (Rob) Blake has really solidified their back end and gets the puck going for them. And, Todd is a real good coach and a real good man. So, I'll be thrilled for him right up until playoff time."
Boyle downplayed the fact San Jose (24-3-3) is currently six points better than the Wings (20-5-4).
"Our records are pretty similar but we have the edge, so far," Boyle said. "Honestly, depth has probably the biggest key for us. We have four lines and six defenders. When our top goalie (Nabokov) got hurt, our backup (Brian Boucher) came in and did a great job. We've been lucky health-wise since we've been pretty injury-free. It's a long season and nothing really matters until June anyway."