Sharks seek to stay hot at home against Red Wings


Sharks seek to stay hot at home against Red Wings

March 3, 2011

DETROIT (39-18-7) vs.
SHARKS (37-21-6)

Coverage begins at 7 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California

SAN JOSE (AP) -- The San Jose Sharks held off the Detroit Red Wings last week to keep their win streak going.

The Sharks have since extended that run to a season-high seven games, but will next face a Red Wings team that's won three straight at HP Pavilion on Thursday night.

San Jose has surged to the Pacific Division lead by winning 16 of 19 and will try to add to that total by matching its season-best eight consecutive victories from 2009-10.

The Sharks (37-21-6) earned one of their latest victories in Detroit on Feb. 22. Devin Setoguchi had a key third-period goal in that 4-3 win among his two scores, and Antti Niemi stopped 35 shots.

REWIND: Sharks get extra point with shootout win over Avs

Niemi has a 1.85 goals-against average over 19 consecutive starts and a 1.64 GAA during the win streak.

For his efforts in place of an injured Antero Niittymaki, he was rewarded with a 15.2 million, four-year contract extension Tuesday before recording a 2-1 shootout win over visiting Colorado.

RATTO: Niemi stands tall amongst NHL goalies

"It wasn't pretty. It was a greasy win," said Ryane Clowe, who tallied the only goal in the tiebreaker. "It was nice to get the win, but it wasn't our best game by any means."

Joe Thornton scored the tying goal with 2:58 remaining in regulation and helped his team open a season-high, six-game homestand with its sixth consecutive victory at HP Pavilion.

"You want to play good for the fans, but we have to stick with our game and to what's working," Setoguchi said. "If we can do that at home, we'll continue getting wins."

The Sharks haven't won at home over the Central Division-leading Red Wings (39-18-7) since Jan. 17, 2009, and fell 5-3 there Nov. 30. Henrik Zetterberg had two goals and two assists, and Pavel Datsyuk added a goal and two assists in the rematch of last season's Western Conference semifinals.

The Red Wings enter this meeting having won six of seven on the road, but suffered that lone defeat Wednesday as Anaheim's Bobby Ryan converted an overtime penalty shot.

"They did a good job and put some pressure on us," coach Mike Babcock said. "Their goalie made some saves, and we missed a couple of open nets. The game was set up for us to find a way to get a win, and we didn't."

Detroit will try to bounce back by avoiding their second three-game losing streak to San Jose and first since Dec. 16, 1997-March 5, 1998.

Logan Couture scored twice in a 5-2 win over the Red Wings on Dec. 6 and Thornton added a goal. He has five goals and three assists during a five-game point streak against Detroit.

Zetterberg doesn't have a point streak versus San Jose, but he has totaled 13 goals and 10 assists in his last 17 matchups with the Sharks.

Niemi, though, might have a good chance to limit the Detroit winger as he's 4-1-1 with a 2.15 GAA in six career appearances against the Red Wings.

Detroit's Jimmy Howard, meanwhile, has allowed nine goals in his past two meetings with the Sharks after giving up eight in his previous four. Backup Joey MacDonald hasn't fared much better, going 0-2-0 with a 3.28 GAA in three career matchups.

Curry bounces back in blowout, wins point guard battle with Irving

Curry bounces back in blowout, wins point guard battle with Irving

OAKLAND -- No one among the Warriors had a deeper desire to beat the Cavaliers than Stephen Curry, and his performance Monday gave every indication that he wanted it as badly as he needed it.

And after losing the point-guard battle to Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving in four successive games, all Warriors losses, it was past time for Curry as the back-to-back MVP to stand up and make a statement.

His response was impressive: 20 points (7-of-20 shooting), 11 assists, four steals and a 126-91 rout by the Warriors. He was plus-23 over 31 minutes.

“He was making shots, it’s as simple as that,” Irving said. “In transition, off pick-and-rolls, doing what he does and that makes him a great player.”

Irving’s response: 17 points (6-of-19 shooting), two assists and a game-high-tying (with teammate LeBron James) six turnovers. Irving was minus-12 over 29 minutes.

“Steph was great,” coach Steve Kerr said. “A phenomenal first half, I think he had 10 assists. His energy was great and he set the tone. He put a lot of pressure on the defense.”

Curry has been playing with renewed vigor lately, his mentality changing shortly after the Warriors on Christmas Day in Cleveland blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter, taking a 109-108 loss. Curry took only 11 shots, scoring 15 points.

He was particularly good in the first half, scoring 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting, with 10 assists and three steals. Curry clearly came to destroy.

“It was a great way to start, just a foot on the gas pedal,” Curry said.

Curry’s game, along with the victory, may silence some of the narrative suggesting the Cavaliers have his number. Though he was displeased with one aspect of his game, Curry happily accepted the outcome. Or that Irving hadn't caught up to him.

“I obviously wanted to play well; I didn’t want to walk off the floor with anything more than what I think is a solid, aggressive game,” he said. “I didn’t shoot the ball as well as I wanted to. Some shots I normally make didn’t go down.

But I can live with that knowing I took care of the other stuff I was supposed to do on the floor. Really, what was all in my head was that I definitely wanted to leave this arena tonight with a solid performance and obviously get the win.”

Durant gets personal with stuffing of LeBron, stops any momentum for Cavs

Durant gets personal with stuffing of LeBron, stops any momentum for Cavs

OAKLAND -- There was a single play Monday night that delighted Warriors fans more than any other in a 126-91 win over the Cavaliers, and it was not any of five 3-point bombs dropped by Oracle Arena favorite Stephen Curry.

Nor was it the high-velocity collision between Draymond Green and LeBron James, which resulted in Green being assessed with a Flagrant Foul 1 and the Warriors cranking up their intensity to another level.

No, the most satisfying play of all was on defense, and it was made by offensive wizard Kevin Durant, who sent a resounding message to the Cavaliers and, moreover, to James, Cleveland’s superstar forward.

With 9:48 left in the third quarter and James driving in for a dunk, Durant responded by rising up and cleanly stuffing the shot, sending James sprawling helplessly to the floor as the Warriors gained possession and raced the other way.

“That block at the rim was definitely great,” Draymond Green said. “If LeBron dunks on him right there, the momentum swings, he’s excited and everything can possibly swing. Yeah, he made a stand. Got a big block for us and we got off to the races. That puts momentum completely in our favor.”

With the crowd pumping up the volume, the Warriors, already in control, finished the job. And don’t think Durant isn’t aware of the effect such a play has.

“Yeah, especially when you’re at home, when you get a block against anybody, the crowd is into the game and they really enjoy that,” he said. “Around the league now, in every arena, fans are starting to respect defense. They can sense that it’s a momentum shift when you get a big block or a huge steal or a block.”

It also put momentum, on a personal level, in Durant’s favor. Despite the fact that Curry has won the last two MVP awards, it’s widely believed that James and Durant are the top two players in the NBA.

James has three championship rings, while Durant has none. James has four MVP awards, to one for Durant. When the two met in the 2012 NBA Finals, when Durant was with the Thunder and James with the Heat, Miami won in five games.

Durant, who entered the league four years after James, is at the point in his career that he believes he’s ready for anything James may have. Furthermore, since coming to the Warriors last summer, Durant clearly embraces the opportunity to beat James.

Durant posted 36 points and 15 rebounds when the teams met in Cleveland on Christmas Day, and posted 21 points, six rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals on Monday. KD, on an individual basis, is now 2-0 this season against LeBron.

“Guarding one of the best players in the league, and somebody that can score in different ways and impact the game from different ways, whether it’s in transition or the pick-and-roll or (isolation), I just tried to stay locked in and relied on my teammates,” Durant said.