The Sharks lead 2-0 in a series that’s been kept tight primarily because of the play of Jimmy Howard. They’ll look to widen the margin of victory tonight, while the Wings will look to relieve Jimmy of some of the responsibility for staying in games.
Keys to the game for the Sharks:
Score first, score early: In theory, the Wings will be coming out hard and the arena will be loud. An early Sharks goal will be deflating even for a veteran group like the Wings, who don’t need any roadbumps in the mental game right now.
Niemi: The Wings are promising to challenge him more, so he’ll need to be on top of his game. He hasn’t been tested too heavily so far, but if tonight’s going to be his first big test, the Sharks need him to pass.
Power Play: The Sharks’ advantage in power plays granted may be smaller today, with the gasping and booing of their own fans left behind in San Jose, , but they’ll still get opportunities and they need to bury them.
Keys to the game for the Wings:
Show up: I’m standing by this. That means hunting down the puck, making it their own. That means smart decisions in their own end, and setting up the shot in the Sharks’ end, not the 89th pass. It means going into the middle, despite the danger level there relative to the comfy perimeter. It means not being goaded into crap after the whistle. It means doing this and the other thousand little things that are necessary to win in this League at this level for a full game. Nothing less than 100% for the duration of the game, and 110% when called for.
I thought Abdelkader should have been the one to sit, but this arrangement may not be so bad. He won’t have the third line center responsibilities that have given him trouble in this series, so it could work out.
Unfortunately, the pairings aren’t changing.
This is a must-win game for the Wings. They better bring their best to the table because you know the Sharks will.