Tonight is the fourth and final game between these two teams this season. The Wings lead the series 2-1, with wins October 17th (3-2 OT
) and November 26th (7-6). The Sharks won the latest meeting 5-1 on February 28th, the first game after the Olympic Break for both teams. Detroit was without their Swedes at the time and were playing with a much depleted roster.
The Wings had a win streak snapped at six games with a shootout loss to Nashville
Tuesday night. It was their first game back from a short but important Western Canada road trip over last weekend. They beat both Edmonton
but found themselves evenly matched at home against the Preds, losing when Brendan Shanahan failed to match Nashville in the sudden death round of a shootout. The shootout loss gave Detroit a single point, making them the second team to crack 100 points (behind Ottawa, who did it the same night).
There is a bit of a goalie controversy in Detroit at the moment, with both goalies playing well enough to create confusion as to which should be the official starter come playoff time. For now, it seems Mike Babcock's strategy is to alternate goalies until one screws up. That puts Chris Osgood in net tonight and he'll be looking to show Manny up after the latter's glove-hand meltdown on Tuesday.
The Freep reports that Mikael Samuelsson is ready to return and that he'll play on a line with Johan Franzen and Kris Draper tonight. It also looks like Mark Mowers will get another game in the lineup, as Babcock says Dan Cleary may sit out. Apparently, he spent yesterday at home throwing up and may not be ready to go tonight.
The Sharks have won their last two, beating Colorado 6-5 Sunday and shutting out St. Louis 6-0 Tuesday. They are on the outside of the playoff picture, currently in the 10th spot with 78 points, but they have three games in hand on Vancouver and LA, the 7th and 8th seed teams with 80 and 79 points respectively. The Sharks are in the midst of a five-game road trip that will take them to Minnesota, Chicago and Columbus next before they head back home to face Phoenix twice in a row.
It looks like Vesa Toskala will start tonight, after he stopped 33 shots in St. Louis.
This game will be a bit different than the Feb. 28th matchup. The Wings will be in full force and will hopefully play like it. A win here is important, with Nashville starting to nip at the Wings' heels (and another game against them coming up in a week) and with the possibility that they could face the Sharks in the first round. It's a good chance for them to practice shutting down Joe Thornton and Co.