Stephanie McMahon Q&A:

Sean Leahy

Preview: 10 things to know about San Jose (1) vs. Detroit (5)

Sean Leahy
Puck Daddy

The No. 1 seed San Jose Sharks and the No. 5 seed Detroit Red Wings will clash in the Western Conference semifinals beginning tonight.

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Here are 10 items for your consideration about this match up.

10. Shark vs. Octopus.

Wysh already filled you in on the Mega Shark/Giant Octopus film back-story, but these two teams have the two coolest props hanging from their arena rafters. The giant purple octopus hovers over the Joe Louis Arena ice with a menacing look. Not to be outdone, the Sharks come out onto the ice at HP Pavilion through the giant shark mouth with glowing red eyes. Not too many NHL teams could pull this off. Although, the Ottawa Senators hanging the disgraced gladiator from the failed intro during their 2008 series with the Pittsburgh Penguins might be a welcome addition to the ScotiaBank Place rafters.

9. How'd they get here?

San Jose shook off the Ryan O'Reilly/Dan Boyle goal in Game 3 to win three straight and close out the Colorado Avalanche. Some teams wouldn't have been able to come back from such a disappointment, the Sharks shook it off and outscored Colorado 12-3 in the final three games.

Detroit battled to Game 7 with a feisty Phoenix Coyotes bunch where their experience won out in the end. Having to win Game 7 on the road was not a problem for the Red Wings as they dominated at Arena winning three of four.

8. The master vs. apprentice.

Detroit head coach Mike Babcock hired Todd McLellan in 2005 to assist with the forwards and run the power play. The Red Wings responded with the a top-five power play unit in two of his three years behind the bench. Having now served the Sharks the past two seasons, McLellan is familiar with Babcock's style of coaching and with many of the players on Detroit. Can he used that information to his advantage in the series?

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7. Rest or routine?

The Sharks wrapped up their series with Colorado on Saturday and have had four full days to rest up. Detroit went to a seventh game in a series that ended on Tuesday night. Is it better for San Jose to have had all that time off the ice or are the Red Wings in a better situation having to play right away and keep their daily routines intact?

6. Better team commercial.

Who wouldn't love Red Wings television announcers Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond randomly popping up during a video to yell, "Kronwalled!"?

Then again, it's hard to root against Joe Thornton and his flatulent dummy "Slappy" (who is growing a playoff beard as part of the NHL-wide "Beard-a-thon"):

5. Special teams will play a role.

Detroit ranks fifth with a 23.5-percent success rate on the power play and sixth on the penalty kill at 81.8-percent among teams remaining. The Sharks are seventh with the man advantage (19.2-percent) and fifth (86.7-percent) on the kill. Any penalty is a big penalty in the playoffs. With some referees known to swallow their whistles in tight games and others needing chap stick from using them so much, the success of special teams will likely be a large deciding factor in some games.

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4. The rookie making a run.

Detroit has had the luxury of being able to wait for goaltender Jimmy Howard for a number of years. With Chris Osgood, Manny Legace and Dominik Hasek before him having success, GM Ken Holland was able to let Howard mature in the minors until he was needed. When the Red Wings were befuddled with injuries this season, the team and Chris Osgood struggled.

In stepped Howard, who saved Detroit's fortunes and guided them into the playoffs with a 20-5-2 record after March 1. Howard looked like a rookie at times against Phoenix, but also looked brilliant in spots, like Games 4 and 5. San Jose offers a more offensive threat than Phoenix, so Howard can't afford many slip-ups.

3. Gamesmanship.

Okay, so the Sharks didn't have any part in this, but the Red Wings are facing a $2,500 fine for landing their team charter at Norman Mineta San Jose International Airport 19 minutes after midnight on Wednesday. Planes are forbidden from taking off or landing from there between 11:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. to please the airport's neighbors.

2. Demons.

Since San Jose entered the NHL during the 1991-92 season, they've faced Detroit three times in the postseason with their only series win coming in their first appearance in 1994, a seven-game upset over the top-seeded Red Wings. They last met in 2007 with Detroit advancing in six games in the Western Conference semifinals. That history may not be in the minds of the Sharks, but their recent struggles in the postseason might be. It's no secret their regular season success hasn't translated into playoff success, but each year they've come back stronger. Detroit hasn't ended their postseason before the Conference Finals since the 2006 playoffs. Will all that hockey catch up with them at any point?

1. The prediction. Detroit in 7.

The Red Wings will be the last men standing in this heavyweight fight. It's as much of a bad match up for San Jose than it will be another disappointing exit. Detroit has been coming into their own recently as they've become healthier and so far, their stars have shown up. Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dany Heatley have one goal between them, while Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk as atop the Red Wings' stat sheet as always. Joe Pavelski needs some help. If San Jose's star players continue to not show up, Detroit will be ready and able to take advantage of that.

The schedule:

Thursday, April 29, 9 p.m.: Detroit at San Jose TSN, VERSUS**
Sunday, May 2, 8 p.m.: Detroit at San Jose TSN, VERSUS**
Tuesday, May 4, 7:30 p.m.: San Jose at Detroit TSN, VERSUS
Thursday, May 6, 7:30 p.m.: San Jose at Detroit TSN, VERSUS
Saturday, May 8, 10:00 p.m.*: Detroit at San Jose TSN, VERSUS
Monday, May 10, 7:30 p.m.*: San Jose at Detroit TSN, VERSUS
Wednesday, May 12, TBD*: Detroit at San Jose TSN, VERSUS

* if necessary ** VERSUS exclusive


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