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Red Wings bag the beards

by Larry Wigge
DETROIT -- Every member of the Detroit Red Wings came to the rink Thursday morning clean shaven. That's right. No playoff beards.

To a man and to coach Mike Babcock that's the first motivational tool the defending Stanley Cup champions feel they need to show the hockey world that they are ready. They are not the team that had leaky goaltending or fell from the NHL's best team defensively a year ago to a tie for 19th this season.

When asked if his team would be more preoccupied with getting their game in the moment, trying to stop Rick Nash, who had hat tricks against Detroit on Jan. 27 and March 7, or in trying to get rookie goalie Steve Mason off his game, Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom kept the answer in-house.

It's all about preparation for themselves, although Lidstrom admitted he expected to see a lot of Nash himself along with defense partner Brian Rafalski and either Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg at center against Nash's line.

In the Jan. 27 hat trick, Lidstrom and Datsyuk did not play because they skipped the All-Star Game. But in the March 7 game, Nash's three goals came with Datsyuk and Zetterberg playing on the same line and Lidstrom on defense.

Cleary in -- Dan Cleary, banged up pretty good in a practice on a hit by defenseman Niklas Kronwall will not miss Game 1. He'll be with Zetterberg and Johan Franzen on the team's No. 2 line behind the line of Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom and Marian Hossa.

Draper out -- Kris Draper is expected to miss the first two games -- with Darren Helm slated to play a checking role with Kirk Maltby and Valtteri Filppula.

Modin out -- On the Columbus side, Fredrik Modin, who has been out of the lineup since March 5 with a knee injury, is back in the lineup and was scheduled to be on a line with Michael Peca and Jason Chimera.

Williams on the move -- Jason Williams, a former Red Wing, had been playing a lot on the Jackets' No. 2 line with R.J. Umberger and Antoin Vermette. Now rookie Jakub Voracek is with that unit and Williams drops down to the team's fourth line with Raffi Torres and Jared Boll. To those in from the Columbus side that shows the depth the team now has.

At a time when every team is looking for secondary scoring, Williams has been a star for the Blue Jackets with 11 goals and 16 assists after being obtained in a trade from Atlanta on January 15. Williams, who came up as a Red Wing, said several of his new teammates asked him things about Detroit defensemen they'd have to face and how certain Wings centers liked to take faceoffs.

Williams' thoughts on playing the Wings? Steve Mason will have to stand on his head and the Jackets can't get frustrated at Detroit having the puck so much because frustration will build even deeper by putting the Wings on the power play. Despite going 0-for-5 on the power play in Sunday's finale, Detroit's power play finished at 25.5 percent efficiency. The team's best before this season came in 1992-93, when they finished at 24.2.

Go forth, have fun -- In the addresses by the coaches, Babcock singled out rookie defenseman Jonathan Ericsson for comment -- saying he told the youngster to go out and have fun.

The youngster Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock was asked about most was goaltender Steve Mason. Hitch said he liked the 20-year-old netminder's ability to bounce back and forget good and bad things. He said he expected that Mason would be focused as usual, even if that meant he'd see plenty of Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom's butts as they are parked right in front of the Columbus net.

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