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Babcock shuffles Wings' lines

by Dave Burke / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – After dropping two games in San Jose, the Red Wings come back to Joe Louis Arena for Wednesday’s Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals agains the Sharks.

Along with mending minor injuries, the Wings are going to come out for Game 3 with some different looking line combinations that hopefully generate a spark to a high-powered offense that has only produced two goals in two games.

The biggest change will come with the separation of the Euro Twins, the team’s star forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.

“We didn’t win when they were together. That’s it,” said Babcock of his reasoning to separation. “We’ve got to find a way to win a game. This just gives us a deeper one, two, three; Just different.”

Zetterberg missed all four games of the sweep of Phoenix in Round 1, but was a welcome addition to be reunited with Datsyuk, given their great on ice chemistry and playmaking ability. One problem also may be the effectiveness and health of power forward Johan Franzen.

Asked about Franzen’s health and if his injury could nag throughout the series, Babcock wasn’t sure.

“That could be, I don’t know that for sure,” he said. “He’s had a day off and took minimal reps in practice yesterday, just to try and get his hands going. I thought when he got mad in the third period the other night it wasn’t as sore, so maybe he should get mad right from the start tonight.” 

Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi has played well, but the Wings think they can give him a heavier workload and that the shake-up in lines may help.

“Yeah maybe, obviously we’ve got to change something up and hopefully give us a spark and guys can get some chemistry right away and go from there,” forward Justin Abdelkader said.

Babcock then went in-depth about the way the lines will look at puck drop. 

“Well, I’m going to warm them up like this, 93-13-96,” Babcock said. “That’s from left to right by the way. Then I’m going to have 44-40 and 11. Then I’m going to have 8-51 and 26. Then I’m going to have 33-43 and 17. So as soon as I split up Pav and Z, that means (Logan) Couture will play on the left side with (Joe) Thornton and (Devin) Setogucci, I’ll just do this for you.

“Then (Patrick) Marleau will play in the middle of (Ryane) Clowe and (Dany) Heatley. The reason I know this is we’ve been through this already this year. It’s just one of those things.”

Babcock insists that the match-ups are a minor detail compared to the big picture.

“I said this after the first two games; to me it’s not about the match-ups. I liked the match-ups in San Jose. I didn’t think that had any bearing on the game, they just won more of the 50-50 pucks and both second periods they’ve been better than us. Their offense isn’t one and done.”

INJURY UPDATE: Asked if he was playing in Game 3, Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski said, “Oh yeah, 100 percent sure.” 

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