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To Clowe Or Not To Clowe?

by Tony Khing / San Jose Sharks
San Jose Sharks' Ryane Clowe (29) takes a shot against Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard the first period in Game 4 of a second-round NHL Stanley Cup playoffs hockey series, Friday, May 6, 2011, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
No surprise, but a lineup spot for left wing Ryane Clowe, who missed Game 6 of the 2011 Western Conference Semifinals vs. Detroit with an upper body injury, will be a game-time decision.

Clowe skated for approximately 20 minutes during the Sharks allotted morning skate time today. Accompanying him around the HP Pavilion ice was Assistant Coach Jay Woodcroft.

“He’s feeling pretty good,” Coach Todd McLellan said. “It’s important that we take care of the individual as far as heath goes. We don’t want to put him in a situation where the run that risk (of aggravating the injury).”

Clowe enters today’s Game 7 as the Sharks playoff scoring leader and tied for third in the National Hockey League with 13 points (four goals). His nine assists is third among players in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“He’s one of our best players,” Logan Couture said of Clowe. “I’m happy that he was skating. I won’t know and no one will know if he’s playing until later today. We’ll see what happens.”

McLellan has to weigh numerous things when making the decision to put Clowe in the lineup.

“Game 7 is do-or-die,” McLellan said. “So how does his ability to play the game properly affect us positively or negatively? And we go from there.”

McLellan isn’t the only coach in today’s game with a player status issue. Detroit Head Coach Mike Babcock may or may not have Johan Franzen available for Game 7. He sat out Game 6 and most of the third period of Game 5 with a lower body injury.

The clichés are very worn out for tonight’s contest. Do-or-die. Win or go home. So on and so on.

But even though this is Game 7 of the 2011 Western Conference Semifinals and the winner advances to the Western Conference Final against Vancouver and the loser starts the summer, there’s really only one way to approach tonight’s game.

Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard (35) stops a shot on goal by San Jose Sharks right wing Devin Setoguchi (16) during the second period in Game 6 of a second-round NHL Stanley Cup playoffs hockey game in Detroit, Tuesday, May 10, 2011. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
“You’ve got to have fun. You don’t want nerves to take over,” Devin Setoguchi said. “It’s obviously a situation we didn’t want to be in (San Jose won the first three and Detroit has taken the last three). We’re here now. It’s Game 7. We’re in front of our fans We have to play a good game.”

“It’s an opportunity and a challenge all at the same time,” Patrick Marleau said. “It’s one of those moments we talk about growing up and playing in the backyard. It’s going to be fun.”

“It’s exciting,” Joe Pavelski said. “It’s a big game. A lot of people will be watching. We’re excited to be playing in it. No matter how we got here, it’s an exciting game to play in.”

Tonight’s game is the talk of the North American hockey world. Two national networks will be televising the game live. The media scrums are deep in each locker room. Fans in both cities eagerly await the opening faceoff. Of course, the players are anxious for the game to begin, but to give yourself a chance at success, one must take the proper approach.

“You try to keep everything (pregame routine) normal,” Joe Thornton said. “You keep your rituals the same. In your head, you go over what you usually do in the 82 (regular season) games you play. You just try to keep everything as normal as possible.”

Thornton also acknowledged that having most of the 17,562 fans at HP Pavilion in San Jose’s favor will also help him and his teammates. He also remembered San Jose’s last Game 7, which took place in the 2008 Western Conference Quarterfinals vs. Calgary (a 5-3 Sharks win).

“We need to feed off the energy this crowd is going to give us,” Thornton said. “I remember against Calgary in the postseason that we fed off the energy early on and we played well that night.”

San Jose is 4-2 in these series deciders. The last one they played was on April 22, 2008 in the Western Conference Quarterfinals vs. Calgary (Sharks won, 5-3). Detroit is 13-8 in their long history. Their last Game 7 was on April 27, 2010 in the WCQF vs. Phoenix. The Wings won, 6-1…San Jose has 11 players with Game 7 experience, while Detroit has 22 who’ve played in these games. In fact, Wings defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski have each played in eight Game 7s, the most among players on both rosters.

Game 7 will be at 6 p.m. and can be viewed on Comcast SportsNet California in HD and heard on 98.5/102.1 K-FOX FM and

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