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Canucks expect physical Wings

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Even though the Red Wings come to town sporting a power-play that hasn’t produced a goal on the road in nearly four weeks, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault knows the Wings will be a handful Thursday night at Rogers Arena.

“I’d like to take sort of a page out of Detroit’s book tomorrow,” Vigneault said Wednesday. “I feel they’re the best team in the league as far as net-presence, always having somebody always there, somebody square the puck, making life real hard on the other team’s goaltender.”

The Wings do cause considerable problems for opposing goaltenders by manning the front of the crease with big bodies like Tomas Holmstrom, Johan Franzen, Todd Bertuzzi and Danny Cleary.

And the Wings will have Holmstrom back in the lineup against the Canucks. The veteran power forward missed Tuesday’s 3-1 win at Calgary with some inflammation in his knees.
Typicall the Wings are able to create a lot of success with their net-front presence on the power play with their big men parked in front of the crease. Unfortunately, the power play has been reeling on the road since mid-December when they have gone on a 1-for-33 stretch going back to their first western Canada trip. 

Regardless, Vigneault believes the Wings’ net-front is a recipe that he would like his Canucks to duplicate.

“That’s an area where we can improve on,” he said. “We need to screen the goal more. We’re tipping pucks and letting the goalies see the pucks most of the time, it’s a pretty easy save for the goaltender. Detroit are so good at that and they have so many big bodies that like to do that and go to that tough area.

“So hopefully we’ll take a page out of their book tomorrow night because their goaltender’s been playing real well this year.”

Now, as for the perceived bad blood between the top two teams in the Western Conference – remember the Niklas Kronwall open-ice hit on Canucks center Ryan Kesler the last time these two teams met? – the two guys caught in the middle of the media storm said Wednesday that the previous incident is in the past.

However, Kronwall offers no apologies for playing hard and playing physical, which has been his trademark since joining the league.

“I'm sure there are people who feel different ways, everyone's entitled to their opinion,” he said. “But to me I didn't think I left my feet and I thought the puck was right there. But I'm sure there are people that see it the other way around.

“Any team that goes all the way has to play physical and wear the other team out. I don't think you can skill around anybody nowadays because all the teams are really good and all have skill. It comes down to hard work and a lot of times being physical. We've shown in the past we have that edge and we’ve got to keep doing it.”

While the Wings aren’t widely considered a very physical team – not at least in Kronwall’s brand of physical – Vigneault measures Detroit’s physicality differently.

“Whether you call physical taking the man when the opportunity is there or protecting the puck,” he said. “Look at the size of some of those forwards when they have the puck down low or you're battling along the wall or in a confined area with them, to get the puck away is a real challenge.

“They like to hang onto it, but if they feel the other team's got good gap or good back pressure they're going to make the high-percentage plays. They're going to chip it in, try to get it back, put it in an area where they got a chance to battle for it. And because of their speed, their skill, their size, that's why they're one of the best teams, if not the best right now.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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