SHARKS (7-0-1) at RED WINGS (6-3-0)
TV: CSN-CA, FS-D
Season series: This is the first of two games this season. The San Jose Sharks are 8-2-1 in their last 11 games against the Detroit Red Wings.
Big story: Once big rivals in the Western Conference, the Red Wings and Sharks are now cross-conference competitors with Detroit currently tied for first place in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference and San Jose sitting atop the realigned Pacific Division in the West. While the frequency of these clubs' regular-season games has been cut in half, expect the intensity to be at full throttle Monday.
Sharks: Although the division-foe Anaheim Ducks have garnered most of the attention lately with six straight wins heading into Sunday, San Jose still maintained a three-point lead in the Pacific. The early dominance by the Sharks is due to a well-rounded offense that scores in bunches and a goalie, Antti Niemi, that is playing some of the best hockey of his career. The plus-23 goals for to goals against ratio is tops in the NHL and a 6-3 win Saturday at home against the Calgary Flames displayed the Sharks' winning offensive formula once again with goals from five different players, including three power-play scores to improve to 25 percent with the man advantage. Niemi wasn't challenged much and only made 16 saves Saturday, but his teammates gave him plenty of support.
"We just come out so strong and heavy," captain Joe Thornton told NHL.com following the victory. "We jump on teams quick and don't lay off. We have a great comfort level here. We're just ready to go. As soon as the puck drops we're ready to go."
Red Wings: Detroit returns to the friendly confines of Joe Louis Arena to begin a three-game homestand Monday as it tries to establish a three-game home winning streak. The Red Wings seek to erase the memory of a 5-2 loss at the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday in which they could not build upon an early 2-0 lead and gave up five unanswered goals, including a historic empty-netter by Phoenix goalie Mike Smith with less than a second left of game play. Coach Mike Babcock wasn't happy with the Red Wings' lackluster effort against the team from the Pacific.
"We weren't good enough, we didn't play hard enough and we didn't have enough people going," Babcock told NHL.com.
Who's hot: Joe Pavelski has earned points in four straight games for the Sharks, including two goals and two assists Saturday against Calgary. … For Detroit, center Pavel Datsyuk is in the midst of a five-game point streak with four goals and five assists over that span.
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