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Red Wings shake up lines for game against Jets

Athanasiou moved into top-six role with Datsyuk

by Paul Harris / NHL.com Correspondent

JETS (27-34-5) at RED WINGS (32-23-11)

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN3, FS-D

DETROIT - Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill shook up his lines in advance of the game against the Winnipeg Jets at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday.

Rookie Andreas Athanasiou, a natural center, was shifted to right wing to play alongside center Pavel Datsyuk and left wing Tomas Tatar.

Athanasiou has five goals and eight points in 21 games while averaging 9:08 of ice time per game.

"You get a chance to play with one of the best players in the world, obviously you're going to be excited," Athanasiou said. "I think my speed can complement him a little bit and give him that little extra bit of space, not that he needs it. When you give a skilled player like that a split-second more time with the puck, it's definitely going to be a huge part." 

The new line combinations separated Henrik Zetterberg and Datsyuk. Zetterberg will play with Justin Abdelkader and rookie Dylan Larkin.

"It's about the line combinations, trying to put together the best combinations we think can be as effective as possible," Blashill said. "I think [Athanasiou] has had a good impact in the minutes he's played but I think other guys have as well." 

The Red Wings are hoping to generate momentum starting with the opener of a three-game homestand. They've lost three straight games and are two points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.  

"Three in a row here, didn't manage to get a single point in three games," forward Gustav Nyquist told the Red Wings website. "Obviously that's not good enough. When you do that you see yourself right on that line again for making the playoffs, so obviously we know how important these games are for sure at home to make sure we step up and play our game and grab some wins here, some very important points. It starts with a big game tonight."

The Jets, who are 15 points out of the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference, are giving their young players more ice time and responsibility after trading captain Andrew Ladd to the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 25.

"Most of them are playing big minutes," Jets coach Paul Maurice said. "… They're handling it right. They're not just concerned about touching the puck. They're being complete players."

Here are the projected lineups:

JETS

Blake Wheeler - Mark Scheifele - Drew Stafford

Alexander Burmistrov - Mathieu Perreault - Marko Dano

Chris Thorburn - Adam Lowry - Scott Kosmachuk

Matt Halischuk - Andrew Copp - J.C. Lipon

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien

Jacob Trouba - Tyler Myers

Ben Chiarot - Paul Postma

Ondrej Pavelec  

Michael Hutchinson

Injured: Grant Clitsome (upper body), Mark Stuart (hand), Bryan Little (fractured vertebrae), Nikolaj Ehlers (eye), Joel Armia (upper body)

Scratched: Anthony Peluso

RED WINGS

Justin Abdelkader - Henrik Zetterberg - Dylan Larkin

Tomas Tatar - Pavel Datsyuk - Andreas Athanasiou

Gustav Nyquist - Riley Sheahan - Teemu Pulkkinen

Darren Helm - Luke Glendening - Brad Richards

Danny DeKeyser - Kyle Quincey

Niklas Kronwall - Jonathan Ericsson

Brendan Smith - Mike Green

Petr Mrazek

Jimmy Howard

Injured: Drew Miller (knee), Johan Franzen (concussion)

Scratched: Tomas Jurco, Alexey Marchenko

Status report: Blashill also made changes to his defensive pairs, reuniting DeKeyser with Quincey and replacing Marchenko with Smith. … Mrazek will start for the Red Wings. He was pulled from the game Sunday at the Chicago Blackhawks after allowing two goals on five shots.

Who's hot: Scheifele has nine goals and five assists in his past 10 games. … Athanasiou has three goals in his past four games.

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