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Hank uses playoff experience as springboard

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – As the Red Wings prepared for Thursday night’s preseason home opener against Minnesota, center Henrik Zetterberg assessed the state of the team with 13 days before the October 3 season-opener.

For Zetterberg, the disappointing exit from last season’s Western Conference finals was a learning experience for the younger players, who will be called upon this season to assume leadership roles.

Coach Mike Babcock intends to evaluate the remaining players in camp, and soon will make his final roster-decisions.
“Me and Pavel (Datsyuk) have had a good opportunity to play with the veteran guys for a few years,” said Zetterberg, who missed the last 19 games of the regular-season with lower back pain. “And naturally some guys switch teams or (retire), so you have to be there to do your best to take over the job.

“I think it was a great experience for a lot of the guys, especially for me, going pretty deep into the playoffs. I think that will help me going into this year and into the playoffs.”

The Red Wings host the Wild at Joe Louis Arena tonight at 7:30. Detroit opens the season at home against the defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 3.

As for other younger guys like defenseman Brett Lebda and forwards Jiri Hudler and Tomas Kopecky, their ice-time will be related to their on-ice contributions.

“They are going to get their chances to play even more this year,” Zetterberg said. “So far, everybody looks good and looks like they were training over the summer. We need them and they have to play good for us, otherwise we’re not going to make it.”

The off-season departures of Todd Bertuzzi, Robert Lang and Kyle Calder have created opportunities for many of the younger players in camp this week. As for evaluating the remaining players in camp, coach Mike Babcock is approaching the preseason games with an “I’m going to watch just like you” view.

The four forward lines for the regular-season will have a different look to them form a season ago. Gone will be a line consisting of Zetterberg and Datsyuk. Each will now center a line. Zetterberg will skate between Mikael Samuelsson and Hudler, while Datsyuk will center Tomas Holmstrom and Johan Franzen.

Dan Cleary will center the third line with Valtteri Filppula and Kris Draper, and Kopecky will center a fourth line between Kirk Maltby and Dallas Drake, who resigned with Detroit as a free agent this summer. Drake played for the Red Wings from 1992-94 before he was traded to Winnipeg by coach Scotty Bowman.

The name of the game for Babcock’s way of doing things is based on productivity and a tenacious work ethic. The philosophy sits well with players.

“We know his style of play and we play hard,” Zetterberg said. “That’s the way we like to play too. If you play good, you’ll play and if you don’t play good you’re not going to play that much. It doesn’t matter who you are and I think that’s a really good thing, especially with a veteran team.

“He gets on me when I do something wrong, so it keeps you sharp. Some times you get mad, but that’s the way of the game.”
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