PROGRAMMINGALERT: Watch the Sharks take on the Red Wings on Hockey Day in America on NBC at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday.
DETROIT The Sharks can achieve two things with a win in Detroit on Sunday afternoon. They can put an end to the Red Wings NHL record 22-game home winning streak, as well as get their longest road trip of the season back on the right track.
Its not hard to figure out which is more important to the players themselves.Were going to approach it like most other games. Obviously, we know whats going on here in Detroit, but we need to get some points on this road trip, Patrick Marleau said. Weve let a couple slip away.
That couple includes losses to two of the weaker teams in the Eastern Conference. The Sharks dropped a 3-2 decision to Carolina on Friday night in Raleigh, following a 6-5 overtime loss to the Lightning the night prior.
Now, theyll enter a building that hasnt seen the home team lose there in more than three months. Detroits last loss at Joe Louis Arena came on Nov. 3 vs. Calgary.
Theyre in your conference. You know theyre an elite team. Theyre in first place overall in the league, so you do pay attention to them, Todd McLellan said. The added awareness is the streak itself.
It would be great to stop their roll and get us going in the right direction, Justin Braun said.
The Sharks are 1-2-1 on their season-long nine-game road trip, which also takes them to Columbus, Toronto, Nashville and Minnesota.
Niemi starting: McLellan wasnt saying, but word in the Sharks locker room after their afternoon skate at Joe Louis Arena was that Antti Niemi will get a chance to rebound from his worst start of the season in Thursdays loss to the Lightning. The Sharks netminder allowed six goals on 25 shots, and has lost four of his last five starts overall (1-3-1).
Its a huge game coming back after the Tampa game, Niemi said.
Hes one of just two goalies to have a regulation win in Detroit, helping the Sharks to a 4-2 victory here on Oct. 28 with 30 saves. Niemi also was in net at HP Pavilion, stopping 40 shots in a 5-2 San Jose win over the Red Wings.
He was asked what he has to do personally to get his game going back in the right direction.
Just see the puck, wait for the puck and stop it. Just be patient, I think thats it, he said. We can make this still a pretty good road trip, so lets go.
Detroit, which beat Nashville on Friday at home, 2-1, will go with backup Joey McDonald. It will be the third time in four games the Sharks face a backup goaltender, as Carolina'a Jason Peters and Washington's Braden Holtby played for their respective teams.
Starter Jimmy Howard has been out since Feb. 2 with a broken index finger, but is available to play.
Changes on D: The Sharks will remain without Douglas Murray. The burly blueliner took a puck to the throat early in the Lightning game and will miss his second straight contest with a fractured Adams apple, although he is with the team here in Detroit.
Meanwhile, Jason Demers appears ready to go. Demers has missed the last nine games, and 11 of the last 13, with an unspecified lower body injury. McLellan said that its very likely Demers will be available against Detroit.
Demers return could mean that Colin White will come out of the lineup. White has been generally ineffective for the Sharks, especially since the All-Star break, and has been on the ice for six of the nine goals that San Jose has surrendered in its last two losses.
More Moore: Sharks forward Dominic Moore had a successful debut with his new team on Friday, setting up the tying goal by Brent Burns before San Jose eventually surrendered the game-winning goal shortly after. Moore began the night as the third line center between Torrey Mitchell and Jamie McGinn, but McLellan drastically shuffled up his bottom three lines before the game was over.
One thing McLellan mentioned after the game was that he liked Moore and Clowe together, after he separated Clowe and Logan Couture early in the second period. Benn Ferriero was the other winger with Moore and Clowe.
Couture finished the game with Wingels and Jamie McGinn, while Michel Handzus centered Mitchell and Andrew Desjardins.
We didnt have much going, so we decided to start flipping guys around, McLellan said after the loss in Carolina.
Whether or not the coach sticks with that lineup or goes back to his original lines to start Sundays game will be something to monitor.