Ryane Clowe out for Game 6

A tame shootout has emerged over the last three games in the Sharks/Red Wings series, with the two offences combining for 21 goals. That makes every ounce of offensive muscle crucial heading into tonight’s Game 6 in which the Sharks will again try to eliminate Detroit.

And that’s why the loss of forward Ryane Clowe could be devastating.

A series of reports clouded with the usual playoff secrecy indicate that Clowe won’t be in San Jose’s lineup tonight. In fact, he didn’t even make the trip to Detroit, according to a report from ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, who wrote that the 28-year-old’s ailment is unknown. An official announcement from the team will be issued later today, and when that comes down we can expect to hear that Clowe has a lower-body injury, even though he actually has an ear infection.

Clowe leads the Sharks in playoff points with 13 over San Jose’s 11 games. He’s been especially hot lately, with four points over games five and six. The search for a candidate to step up and fill the scoring void left by Clowe is now on, and our HOTH investigative team still hasn’t located Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau.

A team that once had the big three (Joe Thornton, Marleau, and Heatley) added the likes of Clowe, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and Devin Setoguchi for some impressive scoring depth up front in recent years. The problem is that two of the names in that original core haven’t produced in these playoffs. Heatley’s off year by his lofty standards (26 goals and 64 points) has continued this spring to the tune of seven points over 11 games. For anyone else, that’s fine production, but not for a player who’s averaged a point or more per game five times in his nine-year career.

Meanwhile, Marleau has been an even greater disappointment. The winger led the Sharks in goals (37) and points (73) this season, but he hasn’t registered a single point throughout the entire Detroit series.

UPDATE: Of course, the moment this post was published Sharks head coach Todd McLellan spoke to the media and tossed out the predictably vague upper-body injury diagnosis (hey, we had a 50-50 chance). McLellan also assured the worried souls in San Jose that Clowe’s absence has nothing to do with the hard hit he took from Red Wings defenceman Niklas Kronwall late in the third period of Game 5. Which means it had everything to do with the hard hit he took from Red Wings defenceman Niklas Kronwall in the third period Game 5.

Faced with some media members who where evidently letting their imaginations run wild, McLellan fielded a question from one anxious little whipper snapper who wanted to know if Clowe’s injury happened away from the rink.

His response: “Unless his wife slashed him at home, it happened during the game.”