San Jose (39-12-9) at Detroit (27-21-11)

  • Game info: 7:30 pm EST Thu Feb 11, 2010
Preview | Box Score | Recap

If the Detroit Red Wings could play as well against the rest of the NHL as they have versus the San Jose Sharks, they might not be battling for a playoff spot.

The Red Wings look to snap their three-game losing streak by sweeping the four-game season series with a fifth consecutive victory overall against the Western Conference-leading Sharks on Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena.

San Jose (39-12-9) has the second-most points (87) in the NHL, but it’s recorded just one against Detroit this season. The Sharks have been outscored 10-4 while going 0-2-1 against the Red Wings (27-21-11), who are two points out of the final playoff spot in the West.

Detroit, which hasn’t swept a season series from the Sharks since 1996-97, has also won three straight at home against San Jose. After battling for the best regular-season record in the conference the past two seasons, these teams could be headed for a possible first-round playoff matchup come April

“I still think they are one of the best teams in the league,” said Sharks forward Joe Pavelski(notes), who’s been held scoreless in two games against Detroit this season. “We know how to beat them. It’s a matter of committing to a certain style.”

With former Detroit assistant Todd McLellan the head coach in San Jose, the teams play a similar type of game. For this season, at least, it’s been the Red Wings who’ve managed to play it better.

“We’ve played them three times already this year, and I think our approach has to be the same,” defenseman Brad Stuart(notes) told the Red Wings’ official Web site. “Just try to limit the opportunities that those top guys are going to get.”

Since Jan. 9, Detroit is 5-6-5 with a pair of victories over the Sharks. The Red Wings haven’t won since scoring four unanswered goals in a 4-2 win at San Jose on Feb. 2.

“If you can do it against good teams why can’t you do it every night?” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock, whose team lost for the fourth time in five games to St. Louis, 4-3 in a shootout Tuesday.

Detroit has played well against San Jose despite being plagued by injuries. The Red Wings could be forced to do it again with defenseman Niklas Kronwall(notes) out and forward Tomas Holmstrom(notes) questionable because of knee injuries.

The Red Wings will have Johan Franzen(notes) back on the ice after he returned from a 55-game absence due to a knee injury to record an assist against the Blues. Franzen has two goals with three assists in his last six games versus the Sharks.

Jimmy Howard(notes) has allowed 10 goals during Detroit’s three-game skid, but is 2-0-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average versus the Sharks this season.

San Jose had its nine-game road winning streak snapped with a 3-0 loss at Columbus on Wednesday. After scoring 11 goals in the first three contests of a six-game road trip, the Sharks recorded 40 shots but were shut out for the second time this season.

Evgeni Nabokov(notes) had the night off Wednesday, but will likely be back in net looking to continue his success away from home. The Russian Olympian is 10-0-0 with a 1.99 GAA on the road since losing in overtime at Chicago on Nov. 15. However, he has a 3.22 GAA while losing his last four starts against Detroit.

San Jose’s Joe Thornton(notes) had two goals and Dany Heatley(notes) added two assists earlier this month against the Red Wings. The pair, who will play for Canada at the Olympics, has combined for six points versus Detroit this season.

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Thursday, Feb 11