DETROIT -- Searching for a way to unlock some of Matt Duchene's untapped offensive potential, Colorado Avalanche coach Joe Sacco recently moved the talented center to left wing on the team's top line.
The results have been good, at least initially, so don't expect Duchene to go back to the middle anytime soon if the production of the new lines keeps up. Duchene, playing on the left side of star center Paul Stastny and right wing Milan Hejduk, has 3 goals and 5 points since the switch -- including a hat trick against the Dallas Stars last Friday.
The trio will try to keep it going tonight night at Joe Louis Arena against the Detroit Red Wings.
"I'm not thinking about it too much," Duchene said. "If I get put back at center, I know what to do with my own end at center. I know how to play it. I've played it my whole life. It's natural. Wing … I'm getting used to, but I think it makes you a more versatile player. If I can be a good winger, I get to play with (Stastny), you know? He and I can play on the same line. If I'm not very good on the wing, I'm not able to do that. It just adds a different element to our team."
That’s the exciting part for Duchene, who had just 2 goals and 5 points in 12 games before the switch. He looks around the League like anyone else and sees how superstars on other teams often are paired because of that versatility.
"It's just like (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Henrik) Zetterberg here (in Detroit)," he said. "They're versatile and able to play on each other's wings when they need them to. Same with (Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews) in Chicago. Those types of great players, in terms of positionally, you want to model your game after."
While those pairs have been split recently -- Kane centers the second line in Chicago, while Datsyuk and Zetterberg mostly play on separate lines -- Duchene on the wing is working for the Avs and Sacco is happy to see it.
"I don't know if it created some excitement for him, I'm not sure, but there's definitely been some positive results individually for him," Sacco said of Duchene. "I'm looking at the big picture, though. I'm looking at what's best for the team here and right now that's what's best for the team, as well. That's a line that we can go to offensively."
As for the move coming as a message about his play, Duchene said it's nothing new to him, if that's the case.
"That's always happened to me," he said. "Since I've been there that's always been the case. It's been the case with almost everybody, just sending a message. Sometimes I'm not as careful with the puck as I should be. I'm a creative guy and sometimes that takes over a little too much. I try stuff that maybe I shouldn't. I'm always going to be creative, but I've just got to know how to manage it."