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Detroit's fourth line adds some offense along with grit

Glendening, Frk and Wilson contribute in a variety of ways

by Arthur J. Regner @arthurjregner /

DETROIT -- Anytime your fourth line can score a goal, it is a good sign.

For years Red Wings fans were spoiled by the exploits of the Grind Line, a trash-talking line of agitators who were not only difficult to play against, but they also had the touch to pop in a timely goal or two.

They were such a complete line that secondary scoring was never a big concern for Detroit.

Over the last several seasons, scoring has been at a premium for the Red Wings overall, but secondary scoring has pretty much been nonexistent.

Perhaps Detroit's secondary scoring drought is about to improve.

Wings coach Jeff Blashill has remained steadfast that he is going to keep his line combinations the same for the foreseeable future; that means center Luke Glendening and wingers Martin Frk and Scott Wilson will comprise Detroit's fourth line.

"I thought that line was great (Tuesday) night," Blashill said. "Part of that, I don't know if they got more ice time but certainly in the first and second they did. I thought that line was really, really good. I thought Frk helped changed the momentum in the second with his work ethic and battle level. He dipped a little bit in his confidence and I think his confidence is building back up.

"To me, his confidence is everything. When he's confident, he's in way more control. He makes tons of plays out there. He can give you instant offense without a lot of minutes and not many guys can do that."

During this young season, Frk has moved from line to line. He seems to accept and understand his role on the fourth line because he has a history with Blashill as a fourth liner.

"I played it for Blashill when he was last in the AHL. I played fourth line," Frk said. "It was very similar to what I am doing now. It's just a challenge for me. You gotta do what you have to do on the fourth line. We're gonna pressure them. We don't want to play in our zone, we want to play in their zone.

"There will be less scoring chances but when we get it we want to make sure we score a goal from it. We just gotta go grind it. It's a hard job on the fourth line but, you know what? I love it and I take it. I'm happy I am playing, so I will do whatever I have to do."

Frk's teammate Glendening is a career fourth-line player. A supreme agitator, Glendening relishes getting under the opposition's skin, winning key face-offs and occasionally scoring the odd goal.

Tuesday night Glendening notched his third goal of the season against Arizona in just his 13th game, matching his goal total of last season -- a span of 74 games.

"Last year was a frustrating year for all of us, especially myself, so I'm just trying to contribute any way I can," Glendening said. "I know I'm not going to score every night but if I can put a few in it's good. If I can get back to contributing a little bit, chipping in here and there, hopefully that will help."

Over his career, Glendening has consistently earned praise from coaches and teammates for his willingness to do the dirty work on the ice and this year is no exception.

"His play has been excellent, that's what I'll say for sure," Blashill said. "I've been clear with him with what my expectation is in terms of how I want him to play. I think he's had a fairly defined role.

"When players are in those environments, they have a better chance for success and I think he's played excellent. He can play excellent and it doesn't always go in. It's happened to have gone in here in the last little bit. He might go some games not scoring and still play excellent. I think he's had an excellent impact on our year so far."

With his role established, Glendening sets the tone for Frk and Wilson. He understands what they need to accomplish as a line, but he realizes his wingers can do more than grind.

"Wils (Scott Wilson) is a real good player and Frky with his booming shot, we know it's not our first job to score goals, we have to play sound defensively and play physical, but if we can chip in here and there it will help the team," Glendening said. "They're strong on the puck, they're strong on the forecheck and I think that's what we have to do. We're not going to score every night, but if we can bring some energy, just give the other guys a rest, that's what we're trying to do."

Wilson is just happy to be playing.

"At the beginning of the year I wasn't even playing for Pittsburgh, so obviously being in the lineup, trying to bring some energy, trying to make plays when I can," Wilson said. "Coach always says you've got to have the confidence to make plays out there and not worry about making mistakes. That's what I've been trying to get at, trying to get my confidence back a little bit and just making plays when I can."

Playing with Glendening has helped settle Wilson down.

"You can really rely on him. He doesn't make any mistakes, and he makes plays when he can, which a lot of fourth-line guys aren't able to make plays, and have the ability or the confidence to do that when not playing as many minutes," Wilson said. "He's really good on the PK, and he's pretty impressive on face-offs. Whenever we get our offensive face-off chances, we definitely know he's snapping it back. It's been nice to play with a guy like that who is confident but really reliable, too."

Blashill has complete confidence in his fourth line and feels Wilson's transition from Penguin to Red Wing has been flawless.

"Not (surprised) based on the reports I had when he came here," was how Blashill responded when asked about Wilson's solid play. "He hasn't had tons of opportunity but he's played with (Sidney) Crosby so he can deliver lots of pucks to Frky.

"It can be a line that can give you that secondary offense and yet also be a hard forechecking line because Frky has been really good at forechecking, Wilson's been a good forechecker and Glenny's an excellent forechecker.

"I think it can be a line that can give you energy but also secondary scoring."

BACK ON THE ROAD: After Tuesday night's brief one-game homestand, Detroit begins a nine-day road trip where they play in Ottawa on Thursday before heading out to western Canada for three games in which they'll face Edmonton, Vancouver and Calgary.

"I'd like to say we're bonding but it seems like we've been on the road a ton. So, what does it do? It keeps my wife happy," Blashill joked. "I just think when you're out on the road, it is bonding time just because when you're at home, everybody's lives are so busy, you don't get together at all really, as a team, very, very rarely because you're on the road enough.

"So, you better use it as bonding time. I think there's an element to that. I looked at the schedule and I wasn't disappointed that we're spending time on the road early because I do think it's important."

This trip will also allow the Wings ample practice time since they have two consecutive days off twice in nine days.

"It's the biggest challenge in the league, getting a chance to practice," Blashill said, but he was also cautious about how much time the Wings would spend on the practice ice.

"You can practice all the time and then you grind your guys to a halt and then they're injured and you can't figure out why you don't have anybody available," he said. "There's just very little practice time. So even some of those times when you look at two days off in the schedule, you got to look at what's going on around it and can you practice.

"For example, the day we're traveling from Ottawa to Edmonton, we're not going to practice that day. Why? Because it's really, really hard to practice on those days. You take the long flight, you get there, the ice time isn't ideal and all of a sudden you decide not to practice, that's just the way it goes.

"When we practice, we just got to make sure we're getting something done every time."

With so many off days on the trip, the Wings will have a lot of free time. What does a player do to occupy his time?

"I don't know, everyone will probably do something different," Glendening said. "Maybe a little reading, maybe a little bit of some TV shows, we'll see what happens."

Justin Abdelkader realizes the Wings are the early season road warriors of the NHL, but he sees short-term and long-term benefits to Detroit's heavy road schedule.

"We've been on the road a lot," Abdelkader said. "Obviously we'll get the perks later once we're home for two, three weeks. The schedule kind of lightens up after this road trip.

"But I think part of being on the road and going on the road, it's nice that you can get some team bonding and some team dinners and get together with guys and kind of come together as a team. I think that's important for us right now, we look forward to the challenge."

VETERAN DEFENSEMEN TAKE A DAY: Defensemen Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson and Trevor Daley did not practice Wednesday at the BELFOR Training Center. It's nothing to be concerned about, but it did alter the Wings practice.

"They're all available," Blashill said. "To be honest with you, I really wanted to have a full practice today and continue to work on things that we need to work on but unfortunately, you just have guys that need maintenance days as you go through the NHL season.

"There were enough guys that needed a maintenance day that put us into a position where we decided to work on some skills (during Wednesday's practice)."

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