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Red Wings come up short after Filppula injury

by Corey Masisak

CHICAGO -- Mike Babcock has a phrase he likes about the early part of a hockey game -- he wants his team to "start on time."

The Detroit Red Wings started on time against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals, but an injury to forward Valtteri Filppula early in the first period Wednesday night left them scrambling. Detroit was eliminated in a 2-1 overtime loss.

Filppula finished a shift and went to the bench, but Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw was there near the door. Shaw had already engaged with one of Filppula's teammates on the ice and at least one sitting on the bench before he turned and knocked Filppula to the ice at 3:43 of the first period.

The replay showed Shaw kicked Filppula's leg out from under him, or "slew-footed" him. Babcock's response to a question about the scrum was only, "You can see the video. You decide."

A team spokesman said Filppula has a high ankle sprain. Babcock said, "He's hurt. He'll be ready for camp."

"I was disappointed we lost [Filppula] early," Babcock said. "I thought we could have been a lot more dynamic. He's one of top-four forwards. I thought our guys hung in there and they battled hard just like they have all year long."

Filppula played only two shifts and 1:28 of ice time. He began the postseason as the team's No. 2 center, and shifted to wing alongside Henrik Zetterberg and Daniel Cleary for Game 7 of the opening round against the Anaheim Ducks and for this round against the Blackhawks.

He's earned a reputation for being a guy who plays well in this exact situation. Filppula had six points (one goal) in the first five Game 7s of his career before Wednesday. He had two points in the team's Game 7 win against the Ducks.

"He has been really good for us throughout the whole playoffs," defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. "To miss a player like that and to have to go short after that line had been playing so well we had to make adjustments, but that's part of the game."

After Filppula was lost, Babcock had to juggle 11 forwards for 12 spots. He kept the top line and the fourth lines mostly intact, and then players took turns either on the second line with Zetterberg and Cleary or on the third line with Gustav Nyquist pushed up to the second unit.

Nyquist made a beautiful pass to Zetterberg for the team's only goal. Filppula finished the postseason with two goals and six points in 14 games, and he can become an unrestricted free agent in July.

"Yeah, losing [Filppula] didn't help us, but I thought we found a way," Cleary said. "We had different guys moving up with me and [Zetterberg] obviously, with [Nyquist] making the play to tie the game. We played well."

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