Hockey Night In Canada Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011

Wings remain in tough spot

Categories: Detroit Red Wings, SJS vs. DET, San Jose Sharks

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Goaltender Jimmy Howard must be on top of his game if the Red Wings are to avoid elimination against the San Jose Sharks Sunday night. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Goaltender Jimmy Howard must be on top of his game if the Red Wings are to avoid elimination against the San Jose Sharks Sunday night. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

A day later, a victory finally under their belts in their Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinal series with the San Jose Sharks, the task doesn't grow any easier for the Detroit Red Wings.

As they prepped for Game 5 of the series Sunday (8 p.m., ET) at HP Pavilion, it remains a do-or-die situation for Detroit, which trails 3-1 in the best-of-seven set.

"We've got to have the same approach, Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "We have to come out with that same desperation. Just stay alive and stay in the series.

"They're going to come out even stronger, being at home. We have to respond to that."

Detroit has never rallied from a 3-0 series deficit in franchise history, but the players insist they aren't thinking that the task facing them is grim.

"You can't get caught up in what's ahead," Wings centre Kris Draper said. "We're living game by game right now. That's how it is. We know it.

"We're obviously very disappointed we're in this situation, but the guys are going to stick together, we're going to battle and we're going to do everything we can."

Staying the course

Johan Franzen and Pavel Datsyuk skipped Saturday's practice, but Wings coach Mike Babcock indicated both would play Sunday and that he'd go with the same lineup that recorded a 4-3 decision over the Sharks in Game 4 Friday night.

Franzen is clearly nursing a sore left ankle that is inhibiting his ability to get around the rink, but in a close series with four one-goal games so far, Babcock is reluctant to take such a proven playoff goal scorer out of the mix.

"It's just one of those things," Babcock said. "It's a fine line in these games. It's one goal here and there."

Facing up

The Wings are growing more frustrated with linesmen throwing their centres out of the faceoff circle as this series continues.

"They weren't getting thrown out in Game 1 and Game 2, I can tell you that much," Draper said of the Sharks. "They [linesmen] seem a little antsy about throwing us out on a lot of faceoffs. The wingers are anticipating and sometimes that's why the centre is getting thrown out. Wingers are trying to help centres out.

"We've just got to be a split-second more patient at the dot. It just shows the importance of how we want to win faceoffs. We want the puck."

PK upgrade

Detroit's penalty killers, who had surrendered 10 goals through the first seven games of the playoffs, buckled down and held the Sharks scoreless on two opportunities during Game 4.

"I thought we were a lot more relentless on the puck, especially in the third period," Lidstrom said.

The Wings seemed to be better at disrupting entries into their zone in Game 4, a facet of the penalty killing that had eluded them for much of the playoffs.

"We just kind of changed our forecheck a little bit to give a different look and I think it did pretty well," Wings forward Patrick Eaves said. "It caused a little bit more havoc for them.

Nick of time

The Wings were still abuzz about the performance of Lidstrom in Game 4. Their 41-year-old captain scored twice and now has 4-3-7 totals in the series.

"He's a special player," Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard said. "He's so cerebral when he's out there. He never puts himself in a compromising position.  He's in the right place at the right time.

Unlucky seven

This is the eighth time in their Stanley Cup history that the Wings have gone on the road for Game 5 of a series trailing 3-1.

"It's frustrating, it's not where we wanted to be, but it's the hand we've been dealt," Howard said. "Now we've got to find a way."

On the previous seven occasions, the Wings have gone down to defeat every single time they've faced this scenario. Included on that list is last season's 2-1 lost at San Jose.

"We're in a tough situation, no question about that, but we've got a great team," Wings forward Jiri Hudler said. "We've got a lot of veteran players. We've all been through a lot of things. We just have to go out and play our game."

Detroit's futility down 3-1 on road

2010 at San Jose lost 2-1
2000 at Colorado lost 4-2
1988 at Edmonton lost 8-4
1987 at Edmonton lost 6-3
1978 at Montreal lost 4-2
1956 at Montreal lost 3-1
1946 at Boston lost 4-3 (OT)

Sharks looking for redemption

Having blown their shining opportunity to go into the Western Conference final with full rest and a head of steam, the Sharks gathered in San Jose Saturday to, yes, learn yet another lesson about how not to make extra work for themselves.

Of course they lost Game 4 in Detroit, and in potentially scandalous fashion. They remain cursed by the burden of old hashtags, like #comfortable and #underinvested and #canonlyplay oneway, and the sense that they had finally left the underachievers' tag for safekeeping with the Washington Capitals.

"I didn't have to tell them a lot," head coach Todd McLellan said after a light practice and a heavy movie session. "I showed them a lot. We weren't close enough . . . we weren't good enough to win last night, and we probably weren't good enough to win in game 3. . . Things we were doing well in Game 1 and Game 2 we got away from a little. We're a resilient group, and I think that's grown on us a little, but I'm not sure that was a 3-3 game at the end of the night [Friday]."

The lessons of Game 4 that were apparently lessons unlearned from Game 3 leave the Sharks in good but not great position, and while they are not yet reverting to the team that won its reputation as lighthearts, they did lose their hold on this series, and the only way to redeem themselves to themselves is to finish the job Sunday afternoon.

If they do, they will be the first team to play the same opponent in successive years and have the pattern of wins and losses be exactly the same since Montreal beat St. Louis in the 1968 and 1969 finals, both sweeps.

If they don't, they'll be back in the soup, with two nations looking at them askance as papier-mâché tigers - regular season warriors who always find the banana peel come money time. And they'll still be ahead 3-2, but it will be a very soft 3-2 indeed.

Ryane Clowe (three assists Friday):

"We're going back home still in command up 3-1. We won last game, we lost tonight in the last minute and we weren't close to being on top of our game. We gotta regroup."

Dan Boyle (goal, giveaway):

"Well, we wanted to finish it. I mean we won the first one in Detroit, so I'm not happy with the split. I don't think anybody here is. We all wanted to win tonight and you know, now they've got momentum going on their side. We need to get back to work and use our home ice to our advantage and get back to starting quickly and playing well."

San Jose's expected lineup

Patrick Marleau   Joe Thornton   Devin Setoguchi
Ryane Clowe  Logan Couture  Dany Heatley
Torrey Mitchell     Joe Pavelski       Kyle Wellwood
Jamal Mayers       Scott Nichol           Benn Ferriero

Douglas Murray      Dan Boyle
Marc-Edouard Vlasic   Jason Demers
Ian White     Niclas Wallin

Antti Niemi
Antero Niittymaki