Dropping the puck: Wings vs. Sharks

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Ted Kulfan and Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Which Joe to know

When the Wings prepare to play the Sharks it’s typically Joe Thornton who occupies a lot of the chalk talk. He did, afterall, score three of the Sharks’ seven regular-season goals against the Wings.

The Wings might, however, want to focus on another Joe heading into this series — Joe Pavelski . He’s been sizzling in the playoffs, leading the Sharks with five goals and a plus-6 rating. It’s been his line — with Devin Setoguchi and Ryane Clowe — that propelled the Sharks past the Avalanche.

Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley , the line Mike Babcock used for Team Cananda in the Olympics, has been broken up. Those three players combined for one goal (Marleau) and a minus-7 in the first round.

Marleau has been centering Thornton and Torrey Mitchell , while Heatley has been on a line with Manny Malhotra and Logan Couture.

“We’re not going to try and fix a lot of things that aren’t broken at this point,” coach Todd McLellan told the San Jose Mercury News. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t adjust things as time goes on.”

Bad omen

It’s right about now the Sharks should be feeling pretty nauseas.

The Sharks have exited in this round their last four playoff appearances, and seven of their last eight.

Last season, as the top seed in the West — they also are tops this season — the Sharks were upset in the first round by the Ducks.

The Sharks trailed the Avalanche this season after three games (2-1) but rallied to win three consecutive games and the series. Maybe a lesson has been learned from those past slip-ups.

“Eighth seed, seventh seed we learned last year that nothing’s given to you, you’ve got to earn it,” Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said.

Star power

Few series for the rest of the playoffs will have as many elite forwards as this one.

The Wings boast two of the best all-around centers in the game: Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg .

Along with forwards Tomas Holmstrom , Valtteri Filppula , Todd Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen , the Wings have a great mix of skill, size and brawn.

But the Sharks are a team that can match that versatility and firepower.

The line of Patrick Marleau , Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley , which combined for 103 goals, is considered one of the best in the league.

But Ryane Clowe , Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi made up the line — nine goals, 22 points, plus-16 — that terrorized the Avalanche in round one.

The Sharks also have more grit than in years past, with forwards Manny Malhotra and Scott Nichol supplying the energy and the hitting.

BFF’s

If Sharks coach Todd McLellan looks familiar, he should.

McLellan was coach Mike Babcock ‘s assistant with the Wings from 2005-08, having a big hand in handling the forwards and power play.

“Todd’s a good man, he has a great family, and he’s an outstanding coach,” Babcock has said of his former assistant.

McLellan credits Babcock with helping him learn how to handle a team and uses some of Babcock’s strategies and systems.

Where’s the heat?

Dany Heatley won’t soon live this one down. Nicknamed “Heater,” Heatley was one of two people throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before a Giants game Monday. The other was a teenage girl.

The girl fired a strike, but Heatley’s toss fell about 10 feet short of the plate.

“His name is Heater and he wanted to live up to the whole thing,” teammate Jay Leach told the San Jose Mercury News. “I would still say he was throwing over 90 (mph) into the dirt. It just stopped short.”

Heatley said he took some flack from teammates the next day.

“It was deserved,” he said.

Home ice

Quiz any NHL player or coach about tough rinks in which to play and you might get a surprising answer.

How about the HP Pavilion in San Jose?

Opened in 1993, fans are right on top of the players and noise is as loud as any in the league.

“The fans are loud,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “It’s a tough place to play, but it’s a fun place to play because the fans get into it so much.”

The Sharks were 27-6-8 in the regular season at home, fourth best in the league.

It’s not 2007 anymore

More than two-thirds of the Sharks roster has changed since the Wings beat them 4-2 in the 2007 playoffs. The only holdovers for the Sharks are Joe Pavelski , Ryane Clowe , Patrick Marleau , Joe Thornton , Evgeni Nabokov and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

Last Updated: April 29. 2010 1:17AM