March 25, 2015

The Detroit Red Wings haven't been generating many offensive chances, but they've made up for it with stout defensive play and an excellent penalty kill.

That could mean bad news for the San Jose Sharks, who have performed well in five-on-five situations but continue to struggle on special teams ahead of Friday night's meeting at Joe Louis Arena.

Detroit (8-6-1) has won four of five while limiting opponents to five goals in those victories. The Red Wings held Washington scoreless Tuesday despite 38 shots - including 15 from Alex Ovechkin - and three power plays in a 1-0 home victory. Petr Mrazek improved to 4-1-0 with a 1.57 goals-against average in his last five starts, while rookie Andreas Athanasiou scored his first career goal in the third period.

Coach Jeff Blashill's team has been getting by despite ranking last in the league with 25.3 shots per game.

"We ground out two points," he said. "We still have to continue to hit the net more. But I thought we did lots of good stuff."

Detroit's penalty kill has made major strides, allowing two goals on 24 opportunities over the last seven contests. Previously, it had given up seven goals on 27 chances.

The Sharks are 3-8-0 since winning their first four games, scoring twice on 29 power plays while surrendering 10 on 31 opportunities. During the first four games, they scored three times on 15 chances and yielded one goal on 17 opponent power plays.

They're plus-4 at even strength while the Red Wings are minus-1.

San Jose lost 4-2 against the New York Islanders on Tuesday, finishing its homestand 1-3-0 despite recording at least 31 shots in each game. The Sharks trailed 2-0 after the first period and have been outscored 12-11 in the first 20 minutes this season.

"We're going to keep fighting. We're in games that are coming right down to the wire," captain Joe Pavelski, who is tied for the team lead with eight goals, told the Sharks' official website. "We're usually down a goal right now. Guys are working, just like tonight, we get back to within one. We want to play with the lead."

San Jose was scoreless on two power plays to fall to 0 for 21 at home. The Sharks' power play has at least shown signs of life on the road, scoring twice in 10 chances over the last five games.

They've also fared well recently in this series, winning 11 of the last 14 meetings, including seven of eight in Detroit. Joe Thornton has at least one point in 15 of his last 17 matchups, totaling eight goals and 13 assists, and Patrick Marleau has five goals and two assists in his last five in Detroit.

The Red Wings agreed with Justin Abdelkader on a seven-year extension Thursday worth almost $30 million. Abdelkader has four goals and seven assists after finishing with a career-high 44 points in 2014-15. He has just three points in 17 career meetings with San Jose.

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