A very close 2-1 victory against a good Kings team and now the Red Wings get...the San Jose Sharks. No ugly third jersey picture this time (womp womp) but a good movie still to go with the post will do right? Anyway, let's get right into it.
Get the octopus ready,Jimmy Howard is starting his 8th straight game. After putting up a 51 save night against the Kings, Howard will be tested often again against the Sharks. San Jose puts a considerable amount of rubber on net and has very skilled guys like Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley so we'll see if Howie's up to the task.
San Jose is on a hot streak, to say the least. 9-1 in their last 10 is hard to believe and the wins have come over some good teams. The "1" in that record is a 6-2 loss over Detroit's last opponent, LA, but the Sharks have knocked off the Capitals, Blackhawks, and Coyotes (twice).
Brad May in for Ville Leino. I guess the only reason for this is that May has the physical aspect. I hate that Detroit even has to choose between these two because right now they're both bad options. The only reason I'd put Ville in over May is that he has shown a few flashes of the scoring touch that made him an elite player in the Finnish league.
This means Drew Miller will be on the second line. I like the line of Cleary-Filppula-Miller. They're all players that work their tails off every shift and with the third line of Draper-Helm-Eaves, the Wings have two solid lines with decent speed.
Sharks top scorer is Joe Thornton with 58 points (11 G, 47 A) and the top goal scorer is Patrick Marleau, who has 28 goals so far.
Check after the jump for match-ups and more
Does Pavel Datsyuk look flat to anyone else? I hate to even say it but lately I've noticed him just kind of going through the motions at times and it kind of sucks to see. He's supposed to be the elite offensive player but there are times when he just seems like he's not trying and not producing like we all KNOW he can. He won only 30% of his face-offs (very un-Datsyukian) and took two penalties (even more un-Datsyukian) but those weren't the only things that bothered me. He looked very timid with the puck at times and didn't put the usual zip on his passes.
Continuing with that last point, the Bertuzzi-Datsyuk-Zetterberg line looked horrendous against LA. With a few exceptions, and I mean a few, there was little chemistry and flow with that line. I know Hank just returned to the line-up and is probably still a little hesitant so he gets a pass but both of the other guys just looked like they kept deferring the puck to one another until a turnover happened. I know it's good to let try and not be selfish with the puck but at some point, SHOOT! SHOOOOOT! I counted a handful of times at the least that that line pulled up on a potential shot to dish it to a teammate for a far worse shot.
Can Nick Lidstrom score tonight? The future Hall of Famer is struggling beyond anyone's expectations to put the puck in the back of the net and it's starting to weigh on him I think. A few of us noticed in the last game thread that Lids looked lost on the ice at time, a huge rarity for one of the best defenders to ever play the game. Could the lack of offensive production be affecting him in the defensive end? Maybe, who knows? It could have just been a bad game and it's all speculation anyway. But the one thing that is for sure is that he will feel a hell of a lot better once he nets one; it has been over 30 games since he did so.
No Homer still (of course). I still can't get over that for the next month or so the Wings will be out with his grinning, bearded face and that his rear end won't be the face of goalies across the league.
But, Franzen apparently skating now. I think he'll still be out until after the Olympics but its encouraging none-the-less to know he's able to do that.
The Wings have to do a much better job at puck possession than against Los Angeles. LA owned the puck all night long and it destroyed any offensive rhythym the Wings tried to establish. San Jose has the potential to make the Wings pay for it more on the scoreboard with their line-up of forwards. Win the puck and make better passes and the Wings should be alright.
Way to beat the Sharks: praying for another huge performance from Jimmy Howard. Or just getting the top line to produce well against a good SJ defense and netminder. Pucks on Nabokov (who I assume is starting) are pretty much all you can ask for.
Key match-up to watch when Detroit has the puck: I'm tempted to go with the top line but I actually think the second line will be the best one to watch. Cleary contributed right back into the line-up and although I'm not expecting a goal out of him exactly, I do think that he will be a factor. Along with Darren Helm, Valtteri Filppula has looked the "hungriest" of any Red Wings to make a difference so that could help Cleary and Miller
Key match-up to watch when San Jose has the puck: It's gotta be Heatley, Marleau and Thornton. Right now, our defense is chum in the water and the Sharks are circling. Thornton is one of the best passers in the league (why he has 47 assists probably) and a very selfless player that
Lines for tonight (barring any damn hours before the game injury announcement like last time):
Pre-game video: Okay, this comes from Discovery Channel/BBC's Planet Earth series. You can skip forward to the 2:15 mark or so if you want to see the best part. How any thing that massive can get that far out of water is beyond me and jawdropping. Also, if you like baby seals, don't watch it.