The Red Wings had a chance to extend their winning streak to five games when they went into play Saturday night against the Coyotes. They instead came out of Phoenix looking to start a new winning streak tonight against another former rival.[singlepic id=93 w=484 h=180 float=center]
Matchup: San Jose Sharks vs. Detroit Red Wings
Venue: Joe Louis Arena; Detroit, MI
Time: 7:30 PM EST
Television: Detroit- FSD; San Jose- CSN- California
It certainly feels like the Detroit Red Wings (6-3-0, 12 points, first place Atlantic division) have not left the Western Conference as of late. Tonight's game will be the third straight Western Conference opponent they have faced and the third straight former rival when the San Jose Sharks (7-0-1, 15 points, first place Pacific Division) come into Joe Louis Arena.
San Jose is the last remaining team yet to lose in regulation and currently stand atop the NHL standings with the 15 points. The Red Wings and the Sharks have played many epic playoff series over the past five to seven years and each time they meet it is sure to be a good game. This is yet another reason why many were upset that the Red Wings left the Western Conference.
The Red Wings come into this game as winners of four of their past five games. They were aiming for a five game win streak when they went to Phoenix Saturday night but fell short of their goal. The way the game started, it looked as if the Red Wings were easily going to cruise to their fifth consecutive win. The Red Wings jumped out to a 2-0 lead but were not able to muster any offense past that and Phoenix connected on five consecutive goals to take the game 5-2. The offensive outburst was surprising for a Phoenix team that has struggled to consistently score goals this season.
The Red Wings showed that they missed their best defender in Niklas Kronwall, who was out with a concussion. Kronwall is not going to be in the lineup after feeling the symptoms of his concussion after a morning skate. The Red Wings did receive big news on the injury front however, when they received word that Darren Helm will be returning this weekend, from a groin injury that has kept him out for the beginning of the season.
San Jose comes into this game winning seven of their first eight games. Their only loss came in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars last Thursday. The Sharks have gotten a solid balance of offense and defense to begin the season. They have not allowed more than three goals in any game this season and have scored three or more goals in every game played to date. They have had offensive outbursts of six goals twice and nine goals once this season. It is safe to say that if you get down early to this team, your chances of coming back are slim with the way the offense can score and the goaltending allowing minimal goals.
Jimmy Howard will get the start in net for the Red Wings tonight. Howard earned the tough loss in Saturday night's game, allowing four goals on 33 shots. It was Howard's first game back from a hand injury that caused him to miss three consecutive games.
San Jose will turn to Antti Niemi in net tonight. Niemi has proven to be one of the best goalies in the NHL and has always played very well against the Red Wings. In his career, Niemi has posted a 10-2-2 record with a .939 save percentage and a 1.81 GAA in 14 career games.