Published May 02, 2016
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Detroit Red Wings are still in solid position at making a 24th straight trip to the postseason, but some recent struggles are tightening up the standings just a bit.
The Red Wings look to get on track Thursday night and deal the San Jose Sharks' playoff chances another blow.
Detroit has split the first two contests of a four-game homestand and lost for the seventh time in 10 games with Tuesday's 5-4 overtime setback to the Arizona Coyotes.
This stretch has knocked the Red Wings nine points behind the second-place Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic Division and they now lead the fourth- place Ottawa Senators by only five points with 10 games to play. The Sens host the New York Rangers on Thursday.
Things have gotten much more critical for the Sharks, who have dropped 10 points behind a wild card spot with nine games left on their schedule thanks to four losses in their past five games.
Detroit did manage a point in Tuesday's loss to Arizona, but lost the game when Mark Arcobello took a stretch pass from defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and slipped a low shot past Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard with 1:52 to play in overtime.
Jakub Kindl and Justin Abdelkader each tallied a goal and an assist, while Luke Glendening and Gustav Nyquist also scored in the loss. Howard made just 17 saves.
"Once we got a goal, they got one back," said Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg, who notched two assists. "These kind of games you want to get two points."
The Red Wings played without forward Pavel Datsyuk for a fourth game in a row due to a lower-body injury, while defenseman Niklas Kronwall was a late scratch because of a lower-body ailment. Neither have been ruled out to return tonight, but forward Erik Cole is slated to miss at least the next three games because of an upper-body injury suffered versus the Coyotes.
The Sharks have been off since Monday's 5-2 loss to Ottawa in which the Senators scored four times in the third period to rally past San Jose.
Joe Pavelski and Chris Tierney scored 30 seconds apart in the second period for San Jose, which fell to 1-3-0 on its seven-game road trip. Antti Niemi made 32 saves for the Sharks.
"It's sure not about me. It's about the group and the team and I'm part of that," said Sharks coach Todd McLellan of the recent slide. "The coaching staff feels the pain just as the players do.
"We're not dealing in the fantasy world yet. We're dealing in a world where we look at numbers. We still have an opportunity. We didn't take care of our own business."
The Sharks had a four-game series winning streak over the Red Wings snapped with a 3-2 loss at home on Feb. 26. Datsyuk and Glendening scored third- period goals for Detroit and Howard made 20 saves.
Matt Irwin and Patrick Marleau had the goals for San Jose and Niemi made 32 saves.
Howard is 4-6-4 with a 2.73 goals against average and .910 save percentage in 14 games versus the Sharks lifetime, while Niemi is 12-3-2 against the Red Wings with a 1.72 GAA, .942 save percentage and three shutouts in 17 meetings (16 starts).
San Jose has still won 10 of its past 13 overall in this series and six of its last seven in Detroit.