(Preview from The Sports Network)
Though they have gotten the better of the Sharks in the regular season, the Red Wings were unable to better the club when it really counted last year.
Detroit kicks off a three-game California tour this evening with its first visit to San Jose and HP Pavilion since last year's Western Conference semifinals.
The Red Wings have won four straight over the Sharks in the regular season before San Jose picked up a shootout victory in Detroit on Feb. 11. The Sharks carried the momentum from that win into the playoffs, were it eliminated the Red Wings in five games in the second round. All four San Jose victories came by just one goal, but Detroit's lone series victory was a 7-1 thrashing in Motown on May 6.
Two days later, the Sharks notched a 2-1 home win to earn a trip to the conference finals, where they swept by the Blackhawks.
Detroit has still won two straight and four of its last six regular-season trips to HP Pavilion and will also visit Anaheim and Los Angeles over the next week.
The Western Conference-leading Red Wings have won seven of their last nine overall and swept a home-and-home set with the Central Division-rival Blue Jackets over the weekend. After a 2-1 victory in Columbus on Friday, Detroit skated to a 4-2 home triumph on Sunday.
Niklas Kronwall and Darren Helm scored 14 seconds apart in the second period and Valtteri Filppula and Danny Cleary also scored for the Red Wings, who are 5-3-0 on the road. Jimmy Howard made 27 saves and Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen both finished with two assists.
"We definitely have some confidence going into this trip and hopefully we can just carry it through and get some big wins because we're going to need them," said Helm.
Center Mike Modano suffered a severed tendon in his right wrist in Friday's win and underwent surgery on Saturday to repair the damage. He is expected to miss the next two months as a result.
The Sharks have a little momentum of their own brewing as they have won two of their last three and snapped a six-game road slide with Saturday's 4-3 victory in Edmonton.
Dany Heatley scored twice and had an assist, while Joe Pavelski and Benn Ferriero also had a goals.Antero Niittymaki made 22 saves as the Sharks gutted out the victory despite losing two defensemen -- Niclas Wallin (leg) and Kent Huskins (undisclosed) -- due to injury in the game.
"It was a big effort by us," Heatley told NHL.com. "Going down to four defensemen like we did and rallying around that, I think that's a big night for us."
San Jose, which is 6-2-3 over its last 11, returns home for one game before hitting the road for five in a row. The Sharks have won four of five and seven of nine at home since an 0-2-1 start at HP Pavilion.
While Niittymaki has allowed six goals on 41 shots faced in his only other career start versus the Red Wings, a loss, Antti Niemi is a much sharper 2-1-1 against them with a 1.94 goals-against average.
Howard has never lost in regulation to the Sharks in the regular season, going 2-0-1 with a 1.62 GAA. He was in net for all five playoff games last year versus San Jose, posting a 2.97 GAA.