Sharks Gameday: What Augustus Griggs Sees, He Owns

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7:30 PST
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15-4-2, 32 points 11-7-4, 26 points
1st in Western Conference
10th in Western Conference

Television
NHLN-US, CSN-CA
Radio
98.5 KFOX, Sjsharks.com
Antagonists
Winging It In Motown
Abel to Yzerman

Whenever the Red Wings roll into town you can feel the electricity in the air.

Tonight is no exception.

Detroit comes into tonight on top of the Western Conference, managing to distance themselves ever so slightly from the rest of the pack with a Conference leading 32 points in 21 games. They've accomplished this in nearly every conceivable way possible-- by scoring goals at a 3.48 per game clip (2nd in NHL), limiting goals against to 2.62 a game (10th in NHL), and finishing teams off with an excellent 13-0-1 record after leading heading into the first or second period. Considering their roster and historical swagger one shouldn't be surprised, but after an injury plagued 2009-2010 season, it's refreshing to see Detroit up at the top of the West once again.

Even if eloquent and classy articles like this make you reconsider the state of the human race.

The usual suspects are all in play here-- Pavel Datsyuk leads the team with 24 points, with Henrik Zetterberg, Todd Bertuzzi, Johan Franzen, Dan Cleary, Tomas Holmstrom, and beyond all rounding out a team that regularly ices four lines that will put pressure on the Sharks defense. Coupled with Niklas Lidstrom's umpteenth year as a legitimate Norris Trophy candidate, as well as Jimmy Howard's respectable .914 SV%, and you have yet another strong squad heading into HP Pavilion wearing the white and red.

They're a well oiled machine that has had the benefit of health this year, and every single player on the roster has averaged over 11 minutes per game. It's way to keep legs fresh over a grueling 82 game season, something that the Sharks haven't been able to do lately.

Skating with four defenseman for two entire periods against Edmonton on Saturday night, Dan Boyle (30:31), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (28:18), and Douglas Murray (26:39) were leaned on heavily by Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan in the absence of his 4 through 6 defenseman that started the year in San Jose. It was similar to the ice time splits during a road trip to Colorado and Dallas earlier this month, and one has to figure ice time might be just as lopsided tonight.

With Jason Demers, Niclas Wallin, and Kent Huskins all day to day with various ailments, The Tank will see a healthy dose of some of the notable Worcester prospects they have only read about up until this point. Justin Braun, who started the year with the San Jose's AHL affiliate, has impressed in his two games with the team. An offensive defenseman who put up 25 goals in 37 games during his senior year at the University of Massachusetts, Braun has a propensity for carrying the puck through the neutral zone and getting his shots through from the point. For a blueline that has struggled all season with generating offense from the backend after Rob Blake retired, Braun is a welcome addition to the team that could blossom into a Jason Demers type a la 2009-2010. And while he is definitely not the top three defenseman San Jose needs, he's an intriguing player who could fill a hole and potentially play his way onto the starting lineup.

But Detroit is no Edmonton, and a gutty win against the Oilers playing two defenseman short is a far cry from withstanding the barrage of what should be a Red Wings team looking for some type of revenge for last season's playoff ousting. There's nothing quite like a Dallas or Detroit home game, and there's nothing quite like seeing what kind of performance we'll see from an injury-riddled Sharks blueline tonight.

With San Jose in desperate need of points before a big road trip to start December, this is a night where the big guns have to make a difference. On a night where at least three goals will likely be the requisite amount to obtain a win, and the Red Wings a formidable opponent as always, look for Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dany Heatley to produce. Although Lidstrom will see those guys all night, leaving players like Pavelski, Couture, and Clowe better opportunities to score, HTML is the defining line tonight.

They've solved Detroit before. And tonight's the night when they have to do it again.

Prediction: Sharks win 4-3. Goals by Marleau, Heatley, Boyle, and Pavelski. The organization clones Boyle before the road trip to ease some of the minutes off the original.

 

Go Sharks.

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