(Sports Network) – The Detroit Red Wings will try to even the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals tonight when they host the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 at Joe Louis Arena. After falling behind 3-0 in the series, Detroit has won the last two contests to cut that deficit to 3-2. If the Red Wings can post a third straight victory tonight they will force a decisive Game 7 in San Jose on Thursday.
The third-seeded Red Wings are battling history in this series, as they are trying to become the third NHL team to win a best-of-seven set after falling behind three-games-to-none. The Philadelphia Flyers pulled off the feat last spring against Boston, becoming the first team to achieve the ultimate comeback since the 1975 New York Islanders. The other time it happened was in 1942, when Toronto erased a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Finals. San Jose has never lost a series when leading 3-0, or 3-1, for that matter.
The Red Wings and Sharks are also meeting in the conference semifinals for the second straight spring. San Jose also won the first three games of that set and ended the series in five. Detroit has posted a pair of 4-3 victories to make this a series once again. The Red Wings made a remarkable comeback in Game 5 to stay alive, as they rallied from down 3-1 to win on Sunday.
Detroit scored three unanswered goals in the third period to beat San Jose, 4-3. The Red Wings got goals from Jonathan Ericsson, Danny Cleary and Tomas Holmstrom in the span of about 10 minutes to force tonight’s Game 6.
“You’re thinking, ’It’s going to be tough.’ But we answered back,” said Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock.
Jimmy Howard made 39 saves for the Red Wings, who are 3-1 as the host in this year’s playoffs after compiling a mediocre 21-14-6 record at the Joe during the regular season. The second-seeded Sharks were in excellent position to end the series on Sunday before coughing up the lead in the third period. Devin Setoguchi and Joe Pavelski scored for a 2-0 lead in the second and Logan Couture’s goal made it 3-1 early in the third period. But the team softened in front of goaltender Antti Niemi, who made 18 saves in the game and stopped just half of the six shots he faced in the third period.
“Hard to swallow,” said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. "They took advantage of some of our mistakes and put it in the net.
Patrick Marleau once again failed to reach the scoresheet in Sunday’s loss. The veteran forward has no points in this series after posting two goals and three assists in the first round against Los Angeles.
San Jose was 4-0 as the road club this postseason before dropping Game 4 in Detroit. The Sharks were 23-14-4 as the guest during the 2010-11 campaign.
The Sharks will not have forward Ryane Clowe for tonight’s game, as the winger did not travel with the team to Detroit. According to the San Jose Mercury News, speculation is that flu-like symptoms may have kept Clowe off the plane on Monday. Clowe leads the Sharks with 13 points in the postseason. He has four goals and a team-best nine assists in 11 playoff games.
Meanwhile, Detroit will be without key forward Johan Franzen tonight after the Swede aggravated his sprained left ankle in Game 5. Franzen, who sat out the entire third period on Sunday, has two goals and one assist in eight playoff games this spring. With Franzen sidelined, the Red Wings are expected to replace him with veteran forward Mike Modano, who has been a healthy scratch for Detroit in all but one game this postseason. Modano, the all-time goal-scoring and points leader among American-born players in NHL history, last played on April 20, when his team completed a sweep of Phoenix in the opening round.
Modano, who will turn 41 years of age in June, has been contemplating retirement and this could be his final season. Prior to signing a one-year deal with Detroit last summer, Modano had spent his entire career with the Minnesota/Dallas franchise.
Detroit and the Sharks have met four times in the playoffs and each club has won two series. Detroit last ousted San Jose in six games during the 2007 conference semifinals.