Johan Franzen, apparently trying to break up a double play on a slide into second base. - Ezra Shaw
The Sharks will be looking to get the offense going tonight as they welcome the rival Detroit Red Wings to town.
There's always something about a match-up between the Sharks and Red Wings that's extra enjoyable. Maybe it's the playoff history between the teams. Maybe it's the aesthetics (teal & black versus red & white just works so well). Maybe it's because the Sharks have been built to emulate the Red Wings team from the top down.
Or maybe it's because the Sharks have been kicking some octopus ass lately. In the last 20 games between these teams (playoffs included), the Sharks have gone 14-6. Despite some ridiculously close games and series, San Jose just seems to get the better of the Wings more often than not.
These teams always go at each other hard, and it might be exactly the jolt the Sharks need to get the offense running smoothly again.
|9-8-3, 21 points||9-6-3, 21 points
|10th in Western Conference||8th in Western Conference|
To be fair to the Red Wings, this is not the same team Sharks fans are used to seeing. Time finally caught up with Tomas Holmstrom and Nicklas Lidstrom, who both retired in the off-season. Unsurprisingly, Detroit has had a bit of trouble filling the perennial Norris Trophy winner's skates. A couple other familiar blueliners, former Sharks Ian White and Kent Huskins both found themselves as healthy scratches in the Red Wings 2-1 loss to the Kings last night. Similarly to the Sharks, the Red Wings had a tough 0-3-2 stretch earlier this month before getting a couple convincing wins (4-0 vs Nashville, 8-3 vs Vancouver).
Back on our side, the Sharks are coming off a shootout win against the Avalanche on Tuesday. But I don't think it's safe to say the Sharks are clicking the way they'd like to be yet. San Jose was 1-6-3 before that, and had won the two previous games in shootout. Altogether, the Sharks last solid win in regulation was in a 4-1 victory on January 27th against the Canucks. In fact, the Sharks have only scored three goals in a game once in that time.
In roster news, Ryane Clowe will be back from his suspension, and, according to David Pollak, has been skating next to Handzus in practice on the grittiest, slowest line ever. Matt Irwin may get a chance to get back in the lineup as well. He was called up prior to the Colorado game, but needed some rest before cracking the lineup. We'll have to see if, where, and how the Sharks coaching staff utilizes him tonight.
Projected Sharks Lineup
Projected Red Wings Lineup
As you can see, the Wings are a little banged up. They almost give Ottawa a run for their money as the most injured team. Almost. Not really. Smith returned to the defense corps last night. Johan Franzen came back as well, coming in through the revolving door just as Filppula went out.
Bottom line, things are slanted favorably to the Sharks in this game. San Jose will be facing a team they've beaten up on lately, that's pretty banged up, on the second night of a back-to-back swing, against their back-up netminder. You couldn't write a better prescription for an anemic offense. If the Sharks can't start scoring tonight, something may have to change.
Prediction: Sharks 4, Red Wings 2. Goals by Marleau, Couture, Sheppard, and what the hell, Scott Gomez (on an empty netter). Meanwhile, after working so much overtime, Detroit's team doctor decides to buy a solid gold Death Star.