1. The triumphant return of Homer(!!!), for sure this time. (And just how appropriate is it that he returns on Groundhog Day?)
2. This is probably going to happen (seriously, so kickass):
Per the norm, there are all kinds of reasons to be slightly annoyed with the San Jose Sharks. They're currently first place in the Western Conference. Patrick Marleau (him?) is tied with Sidney Crosby for most goals scored league-wide at 37 each. Joe Thornton is fourth in the league in points (68). Evgeni Nabokov is third in the league in save percentage, GAA, and wins. None of this should be truly surprising since San Jose often sits atop or very near to the top of the Western Conference.
When we here at TSO look at teams beforehand, usually we say something earth-shatteringly deep like, "Oh, a win tonight would really help us gain momentum at the beginning of this road trip," or "Wow, at this point in the season, beating a top team like the Sharks on their home ice would feel better than sex," or "Let's go ahead and solidify our place at the bottom of the pack that's still good enough to go to the playoffs with a win."
Bleh. Obviously, all those things are still true (except the sex part...I reserve that reaction for Wings' wins against teams I actually make an effort to loathe), but the Wings' loss against the Pens this weekend left a bitter taste in my mouth. The offensive effort was there--but only during the final twenty minutes of the game. In fact, I'd worked on one of our live blog recaps during the game, only to give it up during the second intermission because I was completely disgusted with the team's performance against Shittsburgh, and I just couldn't find the words. (Instead, we went out for Mexican food and margaritas after the game. I poured one out for all equally distraught TSO readers. WIN!)
The Wings can't afford to do that against tough opponents, including tonight (despite having a good track record against San Jose--the last game against them, on January 9th, resulted in a 4-1 win for us). It's common sense: When you allow offensive powerhouses to hang out in your own zone for the better part of 40 minutes and pepper your goaltender with 40+ shots by the end of the game, at least one of them is bound to make its way into the net, even if it's a result of a shitty bounce or rebound that Howard has no chance to stop. With the Wings' lack of offensive production leading to losses being decided by one- or two-point games, it's certainly a recipe for disaster.
So what's it going to be tonight? The Wings have to come out, guns blazing, to defeat San Jose, and then they have to keep on trucking until sixty minutes have elapsed. If I see another half-hearted effort for any major portion of the game, whether it's an attempt to come from behind to score (no, not the shocker) or letting their foot off the gas after building a one- or two-goal lead, I'll be dead by sunup.