Tonight is the fourth and final game between the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks this season. Detroit leads the series 3-0, with wins October 18th (4-2), October 26th (5-1), and January 19th (6-3).
The Sharks are 6-5-1 in February. They began the month with a 3-2 SO win over Chicago, but fell 3-1 to Colorado in their next game. They won two in a row after, beginning with a 2-1 OT decision over Columbus and continuing with a 4-3 win over Nashville on Feb. 9.
They then hit a skid in which they lost five in a row. It all began with a 4-3 overtime loss to Calgary on Feb 12. Then they lost to the Oilers (3-2), Rangers (3-1), Islanders (3-2) and Devils (3-2) all in regulation play.
Tonight will be the Sharks' seventh consecutive road game.
San Jose's 76 points are good for fifth place in the Conference and third in the Pacific Division. They are 11 points behind Dallas for the lead in the Division, which seems quite a separation at this point in the season.
Joe Thornton, predictably enough, leads the Sharks in assists and points with 56 and 73, respectively. The team's trade deadline acquisition, Brian Campbell has the second-most points with 44, but 43 of those were from his time in Buffalo.
Milan Michalek leads the team in goals with 20. Jonathan Cheechoo is not far behind with 19, and Joe Thornton's 17 put him in third.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, Ryane Clowe (knee), Alexei Semenov (back), and Curtis Brown (hand) are on the IR, but Kyle McLaren (knee) is just day-to-day.
A note on Campbell: he made his Sharks debut on Wednesday in Columbus. He finished with one assist, 24:34 in TOI, and 0 +/-. He also finished with zero PIM. However, we can be sure he committed at least one penalty:
(via NHL.com, thanks Megan)
Evgeni Nabokov, who has played in 61 of the Sharks' 63 games, will start tonight.
The Wings fell to 4-7-2 in February with a 4-3 shootout loss to Edmonton on Wednesday. The loss was their 9th in their past 10 games, their only win over that span being a 4-0 decision in Colorado on the 18th.
Apart from the Oilers, since February 7th, the Wings have lost to LA (5-3), Toronto (3-2 OT), Anaheim (3-2), Nashville (4-2), Columbus (5-1), Dallas (1-0), Calgary (1-0), Vancouver (4-1). At this point, it's hard to believe they began the month with three wins to extend a streak to eight games.
Despite the skid, the Wings have retained their lead over the rest of the League, though it has dwindled to a mere three points as Dallas has been chipping away at it.
Pavel Datsyuk leads the team in assists and points with 51 and 74, respectively. Henrik Zetterberg's 73 points put him in second on the team. Zetterberg's 38 assists put him in second place among active Red Wings.
Zetterberg leads the team in goals with 35, but he is goal-less in the past three. Datsyuk's 23 goals are good for second on the team.
The Wings will see the return of Niklas Kronwall (clavicle) tonight. He will be paired with the team's trade deadline acquisition, Brad Stuart. Stuart will wear #23 and will see time in all situations.
Brian Rafalski will miss his seventh straight game due to a groin injury, Nick Lidstrom will miss his fourth due to a knee sprain, Chris Chelios has a chipped bone and a right leg injury causing him to miss his third. While Dan Cleary who has a broken jaw, remains out and will miss his eighth straight game.
Jonathan Ericsson and Derek Meech will fill the holes on the blueline. Kyle Quincey was returned to the Griffins yesterday in order to make room for Brad Stuart.
A note on Aaron Downey: he has been fined for his involvement in the pre-game fracas in Vancouver Saturday night. The Canucks' Alex Burrows was also fined.
Projected pairings (via MacLeod):
Expect some hiccups from that first pairing, as it's a combination of a player returning from a lengthy injury recovery and a player adapting to a new system.
Dominik Hasek will start tonight and will be backed up by Chris Osgood.
For more of the Wings' perspective, see Snapshots, Abel to Yzerman, HockeyTownTodd, Behind the Jersey, No Pun Intended, Red Wings Nation, yzerman is god, Detroit Hockey, LetsGoWings, Red Wings Brasil, and Winging It In Motown. OklahomaWingNut’s GDT is here.
I don't know about you, but I'd love to see the Wings finish out this awful month with a win to help everyone put it out of our minds. They'll have Kronwall back and a good passer in Stuart, so the excuse that the breakout passes aren't as strong with the rookies back there is no longer as applicable. The offense should be able to get going tonight, especially considering the vote of confidence the forwards received at the deadline.
The Sharks are a good team and became better with the addition of Campbell, but here's hoping the Wings can sweep the season series in spite of the fact that their opponent is on a roll and they are not.