Wings-Sharks: Decision time for Lidstrom

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- You couldn't help but wonder as the final seconds ticked away Thursday night whether you were witnessing the final game for Nicklas Lidstrom.

The 41-year-old Wings captain can certainly play for a few more years. He was dynamite again in these playoffs. But will he come back?

"I have no idea. I haven't talked to him. Obviously we're hoping," Wings GM Ken Holland said.

Lidstrom said afterward that he would wait and make a decision with his family.

"We all do [hope he returns]," Henrik Zetterberg said. "He has a lot of hockey left in him. In my eyes, he's the Norris trophy [winner], and it would be great to see him back in a uniform next season."

"He's a family guy, and he's got kids and a wife," coach Mike Babcock said. "I imagine he'll make a decision. But talking about this stuff right now, we haven't had any time to think about this, so I can't tell you much."

That feeling was shared by Lidstrom, who was dejected after his team came so close to becoming only the fourth team in NHL history win a series after facing a 3-0 deficit.

"It's a disappointing loss," he said. "Coming back the way we did, we played real hard and we believed in ourselves, and then just coming up short. It's real hard [right now]. ... We battled hard when we were down 3-0 and forced a Game 7. And to just come up short, it's disappointing. I'm real proud of the way the guys battled."

Datsyuk impresses even opposition

Pavel Datsyuk had another gem of a game Thursday night, making the game close with his beauty of a backhand goal that made it 3-2 in the third period.

"That backhand was nasty Datsyuk took. I don't know [how] he pulled that one out," Sharks winger Ryane Clowe said.

Babcock confirmed after the game that Datsyuk was playing with an injured wrist, which was fairly obvious since the Russian star wasn't taking any faceoffs.

Clowe returns to lineup

Sharks winger Ryane Clowe returned to the lineup after missing Game 6 with a suspected concussion.

"I felt good on the ice. I knew this morning right away I was going to play tonight," Clowe said.

Clowe didn't look out of place at all, hitting every Red Wing in sight and having his usual jump.

"As you guys saw, I was finishing all my hits. I got to say, I felt good," he said.

Wings' injuries add up

A tough task got even tougher for Detroit when both Daniel Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi left with injuries. They already were without Johan Franzen, whose ankle injury didn't heal enough for him to play.

"I don't want to make any excuses, but without Cleary, without Bert, without 'Mule' -- that's a chunk of a team right there," Babcock said. "But I thought our kids hung in there, we battled and I thought we had the better of the play."

Detroit's free agents

What now for the Wings? Lidstrom, Kris Draper, Chris Osgood, Jonathan Ericsson, Drew Miller, Mike Modano and Patrick Eaves are all unrestricted free agents.

You also wonder how back-to-back second-round exits will affect Holland's thinking.

"You know what, when we won the Cups, we won games by a sliver," Holland said Thursday night after his team's defeat. "And when you lose, you lose by a sliver. I think all seven of these games, any team could have won any of them. Unfortunately, we got behind 3-0. If we could have won one of the first three, who knows what would have happened. But I think you just keep doing what you do. We'll have to make some moves, but we'll see."

Niemi tough in net

Sharks goalie Antti Niemi stopped 38 of 40 shots and was the difference when the Wings made their most serious push.

"I thought their goaltending tonight was fantastic," Babcock said.