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Less than two months before his 42nd birthday, Dominik Hasek doesn't appear to be slowing down.
Playing some of his best hockey of the season, the six-time Vezina Trophy winner is expected to be in goal again Saturday when the Detroit Red Wings welcome Joe Thornton and the surging San Jose Sharks to Joe Louis Arena.
Hasek, who will celebrate his birthday on Jan. 29, made 20 saves Friday for his 72nd career shutout as the Red Wings beat Minnesota 3-0.
"I made three head saves," he said. "I didn't see the puck twice and it hit my head, so I was a little bit lucky."
With Hasek in net, Detroit (14-6-4) has won two in a row after a five-game winless slide.
The shutout was Hasek's fourth of the season, tying him with Atlanta's Kari Lehtonen - nearly 19 years his junior - for the league lead. Hasek's 1.87 goals-against average also is a league-best.
Hasek made 22 saves in a 2-1 win over the Sharks on Oct. 25 and is 8-3 with three ties and a 2.12 career GAA against them.
But he will be challenged by Thornton, who blossomed into one of the league's superstars following a trade to San Jose (19-7-0) just more than a year ago.
In 58 games last season after being acquired on Nov. 30, 2005 in a blockbuster deal with Boston, Thornton had 20 goals and 72 assists - including 32 on the power play. He finished with a career-high 125 points to top New York's Jaromir Jagr for both the Hart Trophy as league MVP and Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion.
Thornton's play also helped Jonathan Cheechoo finish with a career- and league-high 56 goals. Playing on the top line with Thornton, Cheechoo recorded his first five career hat tricks and scored 49 goals. Cheechoo has just seven goals so far in 2006-07, but has been out since Nov. 16 with a leg injury.
"I knew what kind of leader and character player the Sharks were getting," San Jose defenseman Kyle McLaren said on the Sharks' official Web site, sjsharks.com, about his former Boston teammate. "Joe is the kind of player who can make everyone around him better - and thats exactly what he has done in San Jose."
Since being shut out for the first time this season on Nov. 21, the Sharks have outscored the opposition 12-4 while winning a season high-tying four in a row. On Wednesday, Thornton failed to record a point for a second straight game, but Steve Bernier's fluke second-period goal lifted the Sharks to a 2-1 win over Minnesota.
Bernier missed a pass from defenseman Christian Ehrhoff only to have the puck bounce off his right leg and into the Minnesota net.
"It was in the air, and sometimes the puck's going to go by. Tonight, it hit my shin pad and went in the net," Bernier said. "It's always fun to see that happen."
Evgeni Nabokov made 15 saves to improve to 7-5-0, but Vesa Toskala likely will be in net for this game. A native of Finland, Toskala is 12-2-0 with a 1.98 GAA this season - second only to Hasek - and recorded 29 saves during a 2-0 shutout win over St. Louis on Tuesday.
Toskala beat the Red Wings on Oct. 19 to run his record to 3-1-0 with a 1.39 GAA against them. His only loss to them came on Feb. 11, 2004, a 4-2 defeat at Detroit.
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