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Thursday, May 12, 2011
Red Wings-Sharks: Keys to Game 7

By Pierre LeBrun

Detroit Red Wings

1. Will Franzen play?
"The Mule" has had a huge playoff impact throughout the years, but an ankle injury has severely limited him in this series, and he didn't dress for Game 6. Johan Franzen took part in the morning skate Thursday and didn't look out of place. Will he play?

"I don't know for sure; I'll talk to the trainers, and we'll decide at game time what we're doing," Wings coach Mike Babcock said after the skate. The risk of playing him is that he might not have enough of an impact.

"That's all it's about, can he go, can he compete in a one-on-one battle, can he get the puck out, can he get it in, can he get going or not get going," Babcock said. "They tried something different with him today. If that can help him, then great. If not, we've got lots of guys hungry to go."

Babcock didn't commit to Mike Modano, who filled in for Franzen in Game 6, as the definite replacement Thursday night. Modano obviously hopes he'll be in if Franzen can't go.

"I'll just approach it like I am playing and see what happens tonight," Modano said Thursday morning. "Now I have to nervously wait all day."

Danny Cleary and Patrick Marleau
Pointless in all six games this round, Patrick Marleau must contribute in Game 7 for the Sharks to have a chance.
2. The Zetterberg effect
Henrik Zetterberg's line with Daniel Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi has really come on in the latter part of the series. In particular, Cleary has raised his game, scoring a big goal in Game 6. It's no coincidence that the line has become more effective as Zetterberg has felt better physically. He missed the first round with a knee injury and didn't look right in the first two games of this series.

"I thought Zetterberg by Game 4 was really going," Babcock said. "He was determined by Game 3, but he was really going by Game 4."

3. Wings' special teams
The Wings' penalty kill really struggled in the first round against Phoenix and in the first three games of this series with San Jose. The Sharks went 4-for-15 on the man advantage in Games 1 through 3. Detroit made adjustments, and the results have been splendid. The Wings have not allowed a power-play goal in the past three games, killing off all 10 San Jose power plays. That's been a significant reason for the Wings' turning around this series.

4. Success in net
Jimmy Howard has been excellent in this series, especially at HP Pavilion. He stopped 44 of 46 shots in Game 1 and 35 of 37 in Game 2, then stole Game 5 after making 39 saves on 42 shots. The Wings need him to be the difference again Thursday night.

5. Detroit has edge in experience
The Wings are a veteran team with players who have played big games and delivered clutch performances, and they are approaching Game 7 with confidence.

"I think today's game is all about opportunity and enjoying yourself," Babcock said. "I mean, you look back at your career, how many Game 7s have you been involved in? So enjoy it. Enjoy the day leading up to it and play."

San Jose Sharks

1. Clowe a game-time decision
Winger Ryane Clowe, who is such a huge part of the Sharks both on and off the ice, skated for about 20 minutes Thursday morning but didn't talk to the media. Head coach Todd McLellan said Clowe would be a game-time decision.

"He's feeling pretty good," McLellan said.

The determining factors in whether Clowe plays?

"Ryane Clowe, the trainer and the impact he can have on the game, positively and negatively. ... First of all, it's important that we take care of the individual as far as health goes. We don't want to put him in a situation where we run that risk. Secondly, obviously in Game 7 it's do or die, and we've got to play for a win. How does his ability to play the game properly affect us positively or negatively? Then we go from there," McLellan said.

Having Clowe back would be a gigantic bonus, but only if he could truly contribute. That's a decision Clowe must make with McLellan before the game.

McLellan
Todd McLellan's Sharks went 4-for-15 on the man advantage in Games 1 through 3, but the Red Wings have killed off all 10 San Jose power plays in the past three games.
2. Couture back to center
Logan Couture shifted to the wing for the start of Game 6, playing alongside Joe Thornton, but we didn't like the way that looked. Couture has played wing in the past, but he's mostly played center all season, and that's where he's most comfortable.

"Yes, I do prefer it at center, but I'll do whatever is necessary to help the team," Couture said Thursday morning.

Expect to see Couture back at center on the second line for Game 7.

3. Paging Patrick Marleau
McLellan's hair is graying even more with each passing game in which Marleau doesn't produce. Pointless in all six games this round, Marleau must contribute in Game 7 for the Sharks to have a chance.

"It's one game to bring your best tonight and make things happen," Marleau said Thursday morning.

We asked Marleau if playing in the Olympic gold medal game and winning it along with Sharks teammates Thornton, Dan Boyle and Dany Heatley could be something he draws upon for Game 7.

"I think so, that's the biggest pressure situation a person can be in, in Canada," Marleau said. "The four of us were there. We have to bring that calming effect and at the same time some intensity and play well."

4. A quick start
Like Vancouver in Game 7 against Chicago, a strong start is paramount. It gives the team confidence and makes the crowd part of the game.

"It's important," Thornton agreed with us Thursday morning. "We want to score the first goal, we want to get the first hit and the first shot in. Getting early momentum is going to be important, yes."

5. Stopping Datsyuk
Dan Boyle and Douglas Murray are the Sharks' top defensive pairing and need to really step up in Game 7. They'll be heavily leaned on to try to stop Pavel Datsyuk and play plenty of minutes to shut down the Wings. At the same time, Boyle will be asked to key the transition game and add some offense. If Boyle and Murray are on their game, the Sharks have a chance.