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Sharks vs. Red Wings Preview: Detroit’s slide from possession juggernaut to bubble team

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The old rivalry’s luster is all but gone now.

San Jose Sharks v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

This is likely the last time the Sharks and Red Wings will meet until the 2017-18 season, whether back at SAP Center or in Detroit’s brand new building in Michigan. What was once a great rivalry has lost much of its luster since the Wings moved to the Eastern Conference; but it’s more than moving trucks that took the sheen off this matchup.

Detroit isn’t the team it once was. San Jose has owned this series in recent years as the Sharks remained competitive while an aging Detroit team started to slide away. The Red Wings’ possession numbers decreased steadily after winning the Stanley Cup back in 2008 as the chart below shows:

There have been peaks for Detroit, but the last two seasons have been disastrous. The Red Wings barely snuck into the postseason last year with one more regulation / overtime win than the Boston Bruins to maintain their long playoff streak. Now Detroit sits six points out of the playoffs and is in serious danger of seeing its streak end.

The Red Wings aren’t a good possession team, are shooting just a tad better than the Sharks and have gotten about league average goaltending. My point: This is who Detroit is. The Wings are a subpar team without much hope of making the postseason midway through the season. This is a great opportunity for San Jose to snap its three-game losing streak.

Yeah, that big gulp you just took is warranted. Marc-Edouard Vlasic may return to the lineup after missing three games with multiple fractures in his face courtesy of a puck he took to the face against Philadelphia on Dec. 30. That would be great news for San Jose as the Sharks are still missing David Schlemko with a mystery injury and won’t get Tomas Hertl back for more than a month.

Expect Dylan DeMelo to play with Brenden Dillon if Vlasic returns to the lineup. I also imagine Timo Meier will stay with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski on the top line after playing reasonably well up there against the Wild on Thursday. We’ll learn more about the status of Vlasic and the lineup later this morning.