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Red Wings dominating with the long change

by Dan Rosen

The long change has worked in the Detroit Red Wings favor this season.

The Red Wings have a League-best plus-21 goal-differential in the second period this season (57-36) and plus-23 with the long change when you factor in their success in overtime (4-2).

The long change happens in the second period and overtime, when the teams switch ends, creating added distance from the defensive zone to the bench.

The next best teams in the second period this season are the Dallas Stars and Washington Capitals, who each have a plus-13 goal differential. The Stars, though, are minus-5 in overtime; the Capitals are minus-3.

Detroit was plus-1 in the second period last season, when teams did not switch ends for overtime.

"We skate pretty good and we move the puck pretty good," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "I just think the first period is often more even because both teams are coming out and it takes a while to get going. As you get your game established the second period you can wear the other team out sometimes. We really try to do that."

The Red Wings do it by rolling four lines on a consistent basis. Henrik Zetterberg is the only one of Detroit's forwards playing more than 19 minutes per game (19:08). Ten of the remaining 11 forwards in the lineup are playing at least 12 minutes per game. Stephen Weiss is at 11:29.

"Our guys get lots of minutes," Babcock said. "There's no one not playing."

Center depth is another ingredient that could be playing a role in Detroit's success with the long change.

The Red Wings have two centers playing on every line, which means there are at least two players on each line used to being the first forward back and playing low in the zone. That takes less pressure off of the player who is actually playing center because it becomes a by-committee defense.

For example, if Zetterberg is not going to be the first guy back on his line, Justin Abdelkader can cover for him. The same is true with Pavel Datsyuk and Darren Helm, Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening, and Joakim Andersson and Weiss.

"I think you should have two [centers] on every line," Babcock said. "I said that when we went to the Olympics. They are smart, smart players. They've had to play down low in their zone, be good with and without the puck. To me that's what you want. Any way you look at it they seem to be able to play with and without the puck. I like having too many centers."


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