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Get to middle of the ice is Wings' priority

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask appears to be amused by the octopus that a Red Wings' fan tossed near him during the national anthem before Game 3 at Joe Louis Arena. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT – For the Red Wings to have any success against the Boston Bruins in Game 4, they'll need to throw more at Tuukka Rask than eight-tentacled cephalopods.

Getting traffic in front of Rask will be critical if the Red Wings expect to turn around their luck against the Bruins’ goaltender, who led the league in shutouts during the regular season.

“A lot of times you're not going to score on the first opportunity on any goalie in this league, especially him,” Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader said. “Just get more opportunities, get screens, get tips, just get into that area.”

Trailing 2-1 in their best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoff series, the Red Wings have struggled to get pucks past Rask, scoring just twice in three games so far. But Jimmy Howard believes short-term amnesia would do some good heading in to Thursday’s game at Joe Louis Arena.

“It's already over and done with and there's no sense in dwelling on the past right now,” Howard said. “We've got to get to the middle of the ice. They're controlling the middle of the ice and that's forcing all of our shots to come from the outside. We've got to find a way to get to Tuukka and get traffic in front of him. He's a great goalie, who is going to stop the shot when he sees it.”

The Red Wings have gone without scoring in the last four periods, and their power play has been powerless, going 0-for-9 in this series, including a stretch that lasted nearly 3 ½ minutes during the second period of Tuesday’s 3-0 loss.

“It’s one of those things where they’ve done a good job, give them credit. They’ve done a good job of trapping it, boxing out and getting bodies in front,” Abdelkader said. “We’ve got to make a few adjustments and we’ll be fine. We’ve got a few guys who can get the job done. As a playoff series goes on, it’s about adjusting to what the other team does.”

While Boston’s defense has kept the Wings’ shooters to the outside, it’s been Rask that has been that added level of deterrent which is flustering Detroit.

“He’s got light nights against us so far,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I really thought with the exception of Game 1, they did an exceptional job of pushing us out of the middle, we’ve been on the outside. We’ve been behind so fast in the last two games you don’t even get to test Boston because they’re just ahead. You got to have them down to find out if they’re any good and you got to get on the inside to find out if Rask is doing anything for them. We haven’t got to them. In saying that, we all know he’s a world-class goalie, he skates great, he looks great in warm-ups, that’s where he’s getting his most shots.”

On Wednesday, Babcock was unsure of the Wings’ Game 4 lineup, particularly the status of veteran forward Daniel Alfredsson, who missed Game 3 with lower back pain.

Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall were also absent from Wednesday’s practice. Datsyuk wife delivered the couple’s first child – he also has a daughter from a first marriage – and Kronwall’s girlfriend was still in labor as of Wednesday afternoon.

Rookie defenseman Xavier Ouellet was recalled from Grand Rapids to fill in for Kronwall at practice, though Babcock said he expects that Datsyuk and Kronwall will be in Thursday’s lineup.

“I didn’t ask anybody today on purpose,” Babcock said, referring to Alfredsson’s health. “I figure by not asking anybody it buys me until tomorrow to decide what I want to do first and then I would assume that they’re both (Datsyuk and Kronwall) playing. They’re not giving birth.”

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