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Red Wings give Mrazek start on road against Devils

by Mike G. Morreale

RED WINGS (12-5-5) at DEVILS (9-10-3)


NEWARK, N.J. -- Detroit Red Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek is expected to make his second start of the season on Friday against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.

The 22-year-old Czech Republic native, who is playing for the first time in four games, is looking forward to the matchup against fellow countrymen Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias, Marek Zidlicky and Martin Havlat.

"I'm very excited to be playing New Jersey," Mrazek said. "Whenever I get a chance to play for the Red Wings it's a big game. We are getting healthier and playing good hockey, so I'm hoping things go well."

Mrazek was asked if he had the book on stopping Jagr.

"I don't really," he said. "He's a great player and I really can't say anything more about it. Hopefully knowing how great a player he is will help me stop him. I guess we'll see."

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock confirmed Mrazek would be his starter after the morning skate at Prudential Center. In his only game this season, Mrazek made 28 saves in a 4-3 road win against the Winnipeg Jets on Nov. 20.

The young goalie will certainly be given plenty of support up front now that the Red Wings appear to getting healthier by the week. A healthy Pavel Datsyuk was put between Darren Helm and Stephen Weiss for the first time this season on Wednesday and the results were encouraging.

In their first game as linemates, each of the three centers had two points in a 5-2 win against the Philadelphia Flyers at Joe Louis Arena. Babcock now hopes for similar success against the Devils.

The coach was asked which of the three centers has a tougher transition on a line together.

"No one does," Babcock said. "This is just like a fantasy thing that the media likes to talk about. When we picked the team for the Olympics, we had two centers on every line. These players know how to play down low. The more centers you have, the more skill on a line and the better off you are. They normally are the smartest guys on the line anyway, so I think it's an advantage."

When healthy, Datsyuk has proven to be unstoppable. He has five goals and 13 points in 11 games this season; he missed the first two weeks with a shoulder injury and was out for several games with a sore groin. Weiss has produced three goals, four points and a plus-4 rating since returning from a groin injury Monday.

Devils coach Peter DeBoer coached Weiss as a teenager with the Plymouth Whalers in the Ontario Hockey League for two seasons, and then the Florida Panthers for three seasons.

"I didn't know much about hockey and all I wanted to do was score goals and play offense, and that wasn't going to fly with [DeBoer]," Weiss said. "He really taught me how to play both ends of the rink and really prepared me to be a pro, and I owe a lot of my early success to him at being able to play both ends of the rink."

DeBoer is happy to see his former pupil gaining confidence in the Detroit lineup.

"He's a great kid; I had him as a junior when he was 16 and was close to his family," DeBoer said. "I'm really happy for him and I knew he was a very good player. He was our top center in Florida and played all situations for us. He's had a bad string of injuries and bad luck in Detroit, but I'm glad he's healthy.

"He just had to get healthy since he hasn't been healthy in over a year and a half. I think Detroit is going to see what he's capable of here if he stays healthy."

Babcock likes what he sees in Weiss.

"All I know is that he's faster, has better hands and jump in his step today as compared to what he had a week ago," Babcock said. "It's called confidence. It's earning the right to feel good about yourself; he's been a real good player in the past and the question is can he get himself back to that level. The onus is on him to do that."

The Red Wings have won two straight and five of the past seven. The Devils, who have lost four of their past five games (1-3-1), will embark on a three-game road trip after the game on Friday against the New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs. New Jersey is 15-8-6 on home ice in the past 29 games against the Red Wings. The teams will play one more time in the regular season on New Year's Eve in Detroit.

Here are the projected lineups:


Gustav Nyquist - Henrik Zetterberg - Justin Abdelkader

Tomas Tatar - Riley Sheahan - Johan Franzen

Darren Helm - Pavel Datsyuk - Stephen Weiss

Tomas Jurco - Luke Glendening - Drew Miller

Niklas Kronwall - Jonathan Ericsson

Kyle Quincey - Danny DeKeyser

Xavier Ouellet - Jakub Kindl

Petr Mrazek

Jimmy Howard

Scratched: Joakim Andersson, Daniel Cleary, Brian Lashoff

Injured: Brendan Smith (hand)


Mike Cammalleri - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr

Adam Henrique - Patrik Elias - Martin Havlat

Tuomo Ruutu - Jacob Josefson - Michael Ryder

Dainius Zubrus - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Andy Greene - Damon Severson

Peter Harrold - Marek Zidlicky

Seth Helgeson - Adam Larsson

Cory Schneider

Scott Clemmensen

Scratched: Eric Gelinas, Damien Brunner, Jordin Tootoo

Injured: Jon Merrill (upper body), Bryce Salvador (lower body), Ryane Clowe (concussion)

Status report: Cammalleri and Ryder were the only two non-participants at the morning skate for the Devils on Friday. DeBoer said after the morning skate he may make a few lineup adjustments. … With the exception of Mrazek in goal, the lineup for the Red Wings remains the same.

Who's hot: Linemates Helm and Weiss have combined for three goals and eight points in the past two victories. … Henrique has one goal and three points in the past three games.

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