Finishing up the California trip, the Red Wings head to the Bay Area to take on the middling San Jose Sharks. Coming up just six wins short of the Stanley Cup last season, the Sharks were expected to be competing for the Pacific division. If anything, they are closer to winning the lottery division, boasting a 9-10-1 record, good enough for ninth-worst in league standings.

There is no real doubt, they’ve been the biggest disappointments in the NHL this season. Losing the likes of former captain Joe Pavelski plays a huge part in their struggles.

Projected Lines

Detroit Red Wings

There was only an optional skate before hand, so the above lineup comes with an asterisk.

Luke Glendening is the most notable omission, but signs point to him playing tonight. Head coach Jeff Blashill says Glendening will be a game time decision, but they expect he’ll be granted clearance. The Michigan product has missed the past 11 games with an injury, having put up 3 points in the 10 games he appeared in prior. Based on past lineup decisions with a healthy Glendening, expect to see #41 take the ice on the second line.

Filip Hronek is a question mark, however. He missed the Los Angeles game and mentioned his status is uncertain for tonight. He is another game time decision, however, it doesn’t seem there is as much confidence for him to draw in.

San Jose Sharks

Father Time is starting to catch up with the Sharks. Joe Thornton isn’t what he once was, nor is Patrick Marleau, who returned to the organization this offseason. The decline of some of their core players is what has lead to their downfall.

There are some quality players up-front — namely Logan Couture, Timo Meier, and Tomas Hertl. But having to rely on players like Barclay Goodrow and a past-prime Thornton and Marleau in the top-9 has limited their offense.

The real test for Detroit will be handling the offensive prowess of the D-corps. Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson are arguably the two best offensive defensemen in the game. Being able to roll out that combination on two different pairs is scary.

Three Thoughts

1.) Injuries on Defense

The Red Wings defense does not look promising on paper. Of the six expected to play, Dennis Cholowski is arguably the only quality blue-liner there. If Hronek is out, Detroit will be without their three best defensemen in Danny DeKeyser, Patrik Nemeth, and the aforementioned Hronek.

Those injuries have led to Dylan McIlrath, Jonathan Ericsson, and Joe Hicketts being called up. Alex Biega and Madison Bowey are also being asked to handle larger roles. With some of the star power on the Sharks, there could be many chances against. Detroit will need grade-A goaltending in this one.

2.) Tested Resilience

The last game versus the Kings will sting, having lead by a goal late in the game, only to lose in overtime. The Red Wings found some much needed confidence with their wins versus Boston, Vegas, and Anaheim, which featured an exciting comeback. But to respond with a loss of that nature against a fellow basement team is not ideal for momentum.

This matchup with the Sharks could be a strong test of the team’s resilience. Can they put the past game behind them and churn out a strong team win? They were unable to prove that resilience in their recent losing skid of dropping 12 of 13 games.

3.) Martin Jones in Net

Martin Jones is expected to get the start for San Jose. Jones has arguably been the biggest reason why his club has started off the way they have. For the past few seasons, Jones has been one of the worst goaltenders in the NHL, however, San Jose’s potent offense made up for it. Now that they are struggling to score as much, Jones’ flaws are starting to have more of an impact.

In 16 games this season, Jones has put up a save percentage of .888, which makes for a very poor backup. Last season in 62 starts, Jones had a similar save percentage of .896. Hopefully Detroit can take advantage of his presence in net.