The Detroit Red Wings take on the Joe Thornton-less San Jose Sharks (8:00 PM EST on FSD/NBCS Bay Area/97.1 FM) with both teams hoping to earn two crucial points as they look toward the playoffs…
The problem for the 19-21-and-8 Red Wings is that their friends from San Jose, who sit in the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference, boast a 26-16-and-7 record, some 13 points ahead of the Wings…
In the Stanley Cup Final rematch, the Sharks fired 40 shots on Penguins goalie Matt Murray on Tuesday, but could only muster two goals.
The Sharks’ loss punctuated a 3-game losing streak in which the Sharks have given up 5, 6 and 5 goals.
Right now it looks like Aaron Dell will start opposite Petr Mrazek, but that’s not certain; Martin Jones stopped 26 shots on Tuesday, and he reported no issues in returning from his own lower-body injury, as reported by NHL.com’s Wes Crosby:
“We played really well. Thought we were really quick on pucks and got in on the forecheck,” Jones said. “So it was good. We took away their time and space, which is what you have to do against teams like that.”
Pittsburgh (28-21-3) has won three straight since losing 2-1 to San Jose (26-16-7) on Jan. 20.
Rust ended his 14-game goal drought to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead at 11:09 of the first period. After passing to Riley Sheahan, Rust entered the zone down the near wall, received a return pass and went forehand to backhand through Jones’ legs.
The lead lasted 1:20 before Malkin tied it 2-2.
Then the Penguins took over:
Evgeni Malkin scored a hat trick for Pittsburgh. His second goal gave the Penguins a 3-2 lead at 6:01 of the third period. After Martin Jones turned it over to Patric Hornqvist behind his net, Malkin received a pass and shot into an open net. His first goal tied it 2-2 with 4.1 seconds remaining in the second period.
Bryan Rust, who scored twice, made it 4-2 at 13:58 of the third period. Tom Kuhnhackl sent a no-look backhand pass between his legs to Rust for him to score his sixth of the season on a backhand shot.
Malkin scored into an empty net for the hat trick to extend it to 5-2 at 18:47. He has 12 goals in his past 10 games, including five in his past two.
Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told the Associated Press that the Sharks’ loss occurred due to self-inflicted wounds:
Martin Jones finished with 26 saves but also gave the puck away behind the San Jose net in the third period. Patric Hornqvist intercepted Jones’ sloppy clearing attempt and fed it in front to a streaking Malkin, who had little trouble putting it into an open net 6:01 into the third.
“You can’t beat yourself on the road, let alone going into the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions’ building, and that’s exactly what we did,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said.
The Mercury News’s Paul Gackle duly noted that the Sharks showed signs of life despite their setbacks…
The Sharks took a 2-1 lead in the second by scoring a pair of power play goals. Brent Burns recorded the Sharks first goal, blasting a shot from the point into the top shelf at the 10-minute mark. Joonas Donskoi and Mikkel Boedker earned assists on the play.
Logan Couture put the Sharks ahead at 18:35, squeaking a one timer past Murray after an across-the-slot pass from Joe Pavelski trickled toward him in the lower-right circle. Tomas Hertl also picked up an assist on Couture’s team-leading 21st goal.
The Sharks power play, which entered the game ranked fifth in the NHL, went 2 for 5 on the night, suggesting it can survive without Thornton.
But Gackle felt that the Sharks gave their gains right back to the Pens:
[Martin] Jones set up the game-winning goal at 6:01 of the third, putting the puck on Patric Hornqvist’s stick with a pass from below the goal line, allowing Malkin to score his second of the game into a wide-open net.
The Penguins tied the game 2-2 in similar fashion with 4.1 seconds left in the second after Burns committed a similar turnover. The Sharks defenseman passed the puck over to Phil Kessel as he was retrieving it from below the goal line, setting up an easy goal for Malkin, who was left alone in the slot.
Among Gackle’s “Takeaways“…
The loss continued a troubling trend as the Sharks team defense continued to reveal cracks. The Sharks entered the game having surrendered the fourth-highest number of goals (81) since Dec. 2 after being the NHL’s stingiest team over the first two calendar months of the season.
“We played hard, but in this league, you need more than that. You need to play smart, too,” DeBoer said. “We’ve got to figure that out. It’s hard to look for many encouraging signs when you lose a game that way.”
In the “adding context” department, NBC Sports Southern California’s Marcus White penned an article discussing the Sharks’ first two post-All-Star weeks before the Pens game took place, and it’s important to note the following:
Over the next 26 days, San Jose will play:
- 15 games
- 12 games against teams within four points of the playoffs (as of Tuesday)
- 10 road games
- Three back-to-backs
- One game with more than a day of rest
This would be a difficult proposition with Joe Thornton in the lineup, as the Sharks are just 14-8-9 in games with less than two days rest. That’s good for a .452 winning percentage, all with the team’s top center in the lineup.
Of course, they will be without Thornton for a while, as the 38-year-old has no timetable to return after undergoing arthroscopic surgery in his right knee.
As for the rest of the post-game stuff:
1. Here are the Sharks-Penguins highlights from NHL.com…
2. The Sharks’ website posted post-game remarks from Martin Jones, Logan Couture and Brent Burns;
3. And here’s the lineup the Sharks employed against the Pens:
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) January 30, 2018
The Red Wings spoke almost defiantly regarding their playoff chances after Wednesday’s practice, and while it sounds like all of Trevor Daley, Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm will return from injuries tonight, the Red Wings know that their 34-game push for a playoff spot is at least highly improbable.
The Free Press’s Helene St. James took note of the Wings’ party line, as spoken by Gustav Nyquist and coach Jeff Blashill:
“We know we can do it,” Gustav Nyquist said. “Probably a lot of you guys don’t think that we can make the playoffs. We put ourselves in a little bit of a hole, but we know we can win some games and go on a run here, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.
“If you ask any guy in this room, I think you’d get the same answer from all of us, and that is that we still believe we can do it. We’re not going to lay down and just give up. We got ourselves in a little bit of a hole but let’s dig ourselves out of it.”
Entering Wednesday, the Wings were also 15 points out of third place in the Atlantic Division. And this even as the Wings have played well through the first half but haven’t once won more than four games in a row. Now comes a schedule that shows 20 games on the road, including two five-game trips.
Hence the Wings look for inspiration from the 2015-16 Philadelphia Flyers, who went on an 18-7-5 run and made the playoffs; to the 2014-15 Minnesota Wild, which went on a 28-9-3 run and reached the playoffs; to the 2014-15 Ottawa Senators, who went on a 23-4-4 run and made the playoffs.
“The past hasn’t predicted a run, that’s why all of you and pretty much everybody in the hockey world would bet against us right now,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “I get that. I understand the past says that we haven’t gone on a run. Where do you get confidence from that? One would be history – I don’t know where Ottawa’s run came from that year, I don’t know where Philly’s run came from a couple years ago, but all of a sudden they got hot and they couldn’t lose.
“I know we have the players to do it. I know that we’ve built as a team. I think we play good hockey almost every single night. We just need to get that little fraction better on a night-by-night basis, gain that confidence and go. I understand why people wouldn’t believe me. I have no problem with that. I don’t care what anybody else thinks. I care what the group in this room thinks.
And in the end it doesn’t really matter what any of think, it matters what we do.”
And it’s clear that the Wings’ players have bought in, as Jimmy Howard and Trevor Daley told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan…
“We have to shoot the puck more and get bodies to the net,” goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “It’s no secret that’s how you score in this league. At the same time, we have to find a way to keep the puck out of our net. We can’t be giving up freebies on a nightly basis.”
Time is running out, if it hasn’t run out already. The trade deadline is Feb. 26 and the Red Wings are likely to be sellers.
A quick start
to this post-All Star Game schedule is essential to keep any miracles alive.
“There’s still a lot of games left, a lot of points out there,” defenseman Trevor Daley said. “We realize how desperate it is. We have to get it done right now. We’ve played pretty good most of the time. It’s just the results haven’t come. We just have to give a little bit more and see what happens.”
“Basically, what was discussed is we have 34 games left to do something special here,” goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “Teams have done it before, there’s no reason why we can’t do it. We just got to find a way to get on a roll and that starts with not getting too far ahead of ourselves, just starting with the Sharks.”
Petr Mrazek will start in goal Wednesday against San Jose at Little Caesars Arena (8 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit). Blashill said he expects to have injured players Trevor Daley, Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm back in the lineup.
“You’ve got to go on a run right now,” Daley said. “There’s still a lot of games left with a lot of points out there. It’s one game, one shift, one period at a time, but we realize how desperate this is right now.
“It is frustrating, because most nights I feel like we did enough to win, but you just don’t come out with those points. We put ourselves in a tough position, but we could take ourselves out of it, too.”
As Hockeybuzz’s Bob Duff notes, the Wings believe that they can prove their doubters wrong:
“I know we have the players to do it,” Blashill said. “I know we’re built as a team. I think we play good hockey almost every single night. We just need to get that little fraction better on a night by night basis, gain that confidence and go.”
He can see you shaking your head.
“I understand why people wouldn’t believe me,” Blashill said. “I have no problem with that. I don’t care what anybody else thinks. I care what the group in this room thinks. In the end it doesn’t matter what any of us thinks. It matters what we do.”
In terms of the Red Wings’ lineup, MLive’s Ansar Khan Tweeted out the practice lines…
#RedWings lines in practice:
Howard now practicing in starter’s net after Mrazek was there earlier.
— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) January 30, 2017
And DetroitRedWings.com’s Arthur J. Regner provided a text update:
If everything continues to progress in a positive direction, the Red Wings could have Trevor Daley, Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm back in the lineup for Wednesday’s clash against the San Jose Sharks.
“My belief is that Abby (Abdelkader) will be good to go but we’ll see tomorrow morning,” Blashill said. “Between Trevor (Daley), Abby and Helmer (Darren Helm), I think there’s a great chance that all three will play. We’ll know more tomorrow morning.”
Abdelkader and Helm have been out since January 13, each suffering from a lower-body. They have missed Detroit’s last six games. Daley has been out with a lower-body issue since January 22 and has missed four games.
In the multimedia department, the Red Wings posted four Twitter videos…
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) January 30, 2018
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) January 30, 2018
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) January 30, 2018
The Free Press’s Helene St. James posted a video of Nyquist and Blashill’s comments…