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Five keys for Red Wings vs. Lightning, Game 3

Detroit turns to goalie Mrazek to slow down Tampa Bay

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning play Game 3 of their Eastern Conference First Round series at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday (7 p.m. ET; CNBC, CBC, TVA Sports, FS-D, SUN). The Lightning lead the best-of-7 series 2-0.

Here are five keys for Game 3:

1. Make saves: Goalie Petr Mrazek will start for the Red Wings over Jimmy Howard. Mrazek was pulled from four of 14 starts down the stretch, including his last start March 29 at the Montreal Canadiens, when he allowed two goals on seven shots. The Red Wings' problems in the first two games should be blamed more on team breakdowns than on Howard, but Mrazek was outstanding against the Lightning in the first round last year with a 2.11 goals-against average and .925 save percentage.

Video: TOR@DET: Mrazek lunges for a spectacular save

"He went through a stretch where he wasn't good enough," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "Sometimes you need some time away. I think it's been positive that he's had an opportunity to get away and get back to working on his game."

2. Manage the puck: The Red Wings must do a better job of diffusing the Lightning forecheck, breaking out of their zone and avoiding turnovers. Mrazek moves the puck much better than Howard does, a reason for the goaltending change. Blashill is inserting defenseman Brendan Smith, who has been a healthy scratch in large part because he can be mistake prone. But the players already in the lineup have been making too many mistakes themselves, and Smith has the ability to skate the puck out of trouble and make good passes.

"When Brendan is playing his best, he's a really good breakout guy," Blashill said. "He does a great job transporting the puck up the ice. He joins the play well. He is effective offensively and he manages the puck and he manages his game well, and he doesn't have lots of errors. We're hoping that's what he brings."

3. Win the new matchups: Blashill has the last change at home. He shuffled his lines at the morning skate and though he said they weren't definite for the game, it's a good bet he will split Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. It's a good bet he will try to put a speed element on each line. And it's a good bet he will try to match up Luke Glendening against Tyler Johnson, whose line has scored seven of the Lightning's eight goals in the series. Glendening matched up well against Johnson last year.

Video: DET@TBL, Gm2: Johnson finds the net twice in win

"He's a great player," Glendening said. "He's got a lot of speed. His linemates are great, so we've got to try to slow them down and limit their time and space."

4. Stay the course: As the Red Wings make changes, the Lightning need to keep doing what they have been doing for the most part. Yes, they have to make adjustments; Erik Condra will replace the injured J.T. Brown. Yes, more secondary scoring would be nice. The Johnson line can't do it all. But at this point, finding flaws in the Lightning's game is nitpicking. 

"Whatever they throw at us, we have to adapt to it," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "You've got to trust your system and your structure and your compete level. … Does it matter who's playing against you? It shouldn't. ... We can't sit here and worry about what Detroit's doing."

5. Forget the series is 2-0: The Lightning have outscored the Red Wings 8-4 and outchanced them by a larger margin. But the Red Wings had a 2-1 lead in the third period of Game 1, and Game 2 was tied 2-2 in the third. That's why Blashill keeps pointing out that the games were close and winnable for the Red Wings. If Detroit wins Game 3, it's a series again.

"I'm sure Detroit's going to come out flying," Cooper said. "We just have to build on our experiences in the past. … We know what to expect. How are we going to handle that?"

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