When the Detroit Red Wings line up for the national anthem Friday night, they will look across the ice and see a familiar foe. It’ll be the team that has owned them recently. It’ll be the team that ended their season the last two years. It’ll be the (insert expletive of your choice) San Jose Sharks.
If HP Pavilion is the Tank, then Joe Louis Arena is at least the Aquarium. Before games four and six of the 2011 playoffs, the Sharks had won five of the previous six games at the Joe.
The two teams come in to Friday night’s game going in different directions. The Wings have lost two straight games in dreadfully similar fashion. Lack of scoring, turnovers in their own end, and poor goaltending usually is not the formula for winning hockey. The Sharks, on the other hand, have won three straight.
Much like the Wings from year to year, the names and faces don’t really change for the Sharks. Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, and Patrick Marleau have already combined for 19 points in seven games. In net, Antti Niemi is a pedestrian 3-1-0 with a 2.22 GAA and a .910 save percentage.
Having Jimmy Howard back in goal should help the Wings exponentially. The Wings will win this game if they can find a way to do the things they have always done well: shoot early and often, be disruptive with poke checks in the defensive zone, and crash the net.