Johan Franzen and Ryane Clowe both game time decisions for Sharks-Wings Game Seven; McLellan and Babcock confident

Ryane Clowe and Johan Franzen both were present at the morning skate for their respective clubs today, with Clowe taking part in a light-workout with trainer Jay Woodcroft and Johan Franzen skating on his own. San Jose's morning skate was a light affair; a smattering of individuals took part in the optional skate while Detroit iced the majority of their players.

Franzen is dealing with an ankle injury that made him relatively ineffective during the early part of this series. He reaggravated that injury sometime during game five, sat out for the third period, and did not play in game six. Clowe also missed game six with an injury which was initially called the flu before becoming something in the "upper body" region. The CBC reported yesterday that it was an unannounced concussion. Those details have not been confirmed.

Both coaches spoke about the situation at their respective pressers this morning.

"Mike’s got the same situation with The Mule on the other side. First of all it’s important we take care of the individual as far as health goes—we don’t want to put him in a situation where we run that risk," McLellan said. "Secondly, in game seven, it’s do or die and we have to play for a win. How does his ability to play the game properly affect us positively or negatively."

Wings Head Coach Mike Babcock wouldn't budge either. When asked about Johan Franzen's status Babcock replied with the deadpan sarcasm that he is famous for, getting a few chuckles from assorted media members within the room.

"You know, that's a good question," Babcock said.

Lines and line matching were surrounded by the same type of secrecy, with neither coach willing to tip their hand. However, when I asked Coach McLellan if he felt his team played a better game after reuniting the first and third lines in the final period of game six, he acknowledged the improvement and spoke about the potential for them to return tonight.

"With Franzen potentially playing and their line combinations, we'll have to wait and see. I felt we skated better when we got our lines back to where they were," McLellan said. "Now is that indicative of us coming in and not being very happy after the second period and getting our butts in gear during the third, or was it the line change? I don't know, maybe it's a little of both."

Babcock spoke about the ability for a blueline to make an impact on a game, highlighting an area where both the Sharks and Red Wings have struggled and succeeded during the first six games.

"I believe that is a forward’s responsibility. When you’re on top and you’re working their D and cycling, your defense can be active," Babcock said. "If your D are peeling their face off the glass in their own zone they’re not going to be active, they’re going to change all night long."

Something that has gone largely unnoticed this series has been the ability for defenseman to impact games offensively. Both teams possess so much talent up front that it becomes imperative for the blueline to be active in their offensive zone, and in two systems that stress that aggressive nature, the results speak for themselves. In the first three games of this series the Sharks defense accounted for three goals and three assists (6 points) while the Red Wings defense accounted for two goals and three assists (3 points). In games four through six, Detroit's blueline notched four goals and five assists (9 points) while San Jose received one goal and two assists (3 points).

Special teams will also be a factor tonight, as each team who has won that battle over the last two series has gone on to win that specific game. Chalk it up to the numerous one goal games we have witnessed over the last two years and it becomes clear that the man advantage is strictly that-- an advantage that each team must capitalize on in a series where the difference between the two teams is so small it makes one wonder if it even exists at all.

"When you get to this situation you go back and review everything. You look at the series as a whole, if you simply look at it on paper-- power play and penalty kill are a wash, they're identical numbers," McLellan said. "We've each scored the same number of goals, fifteen I think. Save percentage is identical, goals against average is identical. Faceoff percentage is basically identical. We've won three in a row, they've won three in a row. There are so many similarities in the series."

"It comes down to one game. And I think all along, when you listen to Mike and I talk, the difference is moments. The difference is having that will and desire at the right time. We both believe in our teams. This is a great opportunity. What a great stage for these players to participate in."

"I really believe we will rise to the occasion."

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