Game Preview, Sharks at Red Wings, 12:30 PM

Good morning! Who’s ready for some early afternoon hockey?

The Red Wings are looking for some personal validation as the Sharks come in to town. Think about it. They’re on top of the NHL standings. They’ve won 22 straight at home. They’re staying ahead of the competitive Blues and Predators in the tight Central Division race. But they haven’t yet beaten the Sharks. Five straight regular season games (two already played this season). Two straight playoff eliminations.

The motivation today should be not so much to keep the home win streak going as it is to beat the Sharks for the sake of their own heads.

Drew Miller agrees. “They’re the team that put us out of the playoffs; it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. You definitely want to continue the streak, but I think there’s going to be extra energy to beat them.” Joey MacDonald added, “We don’t want to see these guys come in and push us around.”

As Mike Babcock put it, “It must be time to say enough’s enough.”

The Red Wings will put off their Goaltending Conundrum for one more game; MacDonald will be starting this afternoon, giving Jimmy Howard a couple of extra days for his broken finger to heal up. Joey Mac, as you can imagine, is more than happy to get another chance to shine. “The coaching staff have the confidence to throw me out there again against another good hockey team. I just gotta keep building on them and take advantage of the opportunity.”

Howard and Danny Cleary are both expected to return Tuesday against Chicago. No other injury changes to report; Tomas Tatar has been reassigned to the Griffins. I’d expect Babs to go with the same line configurations he’s been using with the possible exception of swapping Mike Commodore for Jakub Kindl. A little added sandpaper against San Jose could never be a bad thing.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan says his team would certainly love to be the one that ends the historic winning streak, but that they don’t need any extra motivation against Detroit. “We could use that as a motivating tool, but I think there’s enough between the two teams that you wouldn’t approach it any other way if it were the first game of the season.”

San Jose is likely to be playing like a team desperate for points; they lead the Pacific Division, but they’re only two points up on the suddenly surging Phoenix Coyotes (albeit with three games in hand). They’ve lost their last two, 3-2 to Carolina on Friday and 6-5 (OT) to Tampa Bay on Thursday. Yahoo! Sports claims the biggest problem has been the inconsistent play of goalie Antti Niemi, quoting McLellan as saying, “He wasn’t any good. I protect him… and talk about the team. He has to be better. Flat out, has to be better.” Niemi is likely to start today, however, given his past successes against Detroit. The Sharks will be without left winger Marty Havlat (torn hamstring) and defenseman Jason Demers (lower body), and may also be without defenseman Douglas Murray. Murray took a puck to the throat (!!!!) during the Sharks’ game against the Lightning. Initial reports claimed his Adam’s apple was fractured (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), but later testing showed that to be not the case.

What I hope to see today from the Wings is same sort of efficient, relentless play they displayed against the Stars last Tuesday. Patient. Insistent. Unyielding.

Like, oh, I don’t know, a carpet shark eating a bamboo shark.

NBC (proper network NBC, not NBCSN/Versus) will have the game for you as part of their Hockey Day In America coverage; however, FSD’s Ken Daniels will be doing the play by play with Darren Pang as his color commentary partner.

Let’s go, Red Wings! *clap clap clapclapclap*

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