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Holmstrom desires increased minutes

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT Tomas Holmstrom plans to make a point tonight when the Red Wings faceoff against the Colorado Avalanche at Joe Louis Arena tonight.

Being banished to the fourth line at the beginning of the season didn’t sit very well with the 38-year-old Holmstrom, who hopes to make his presence known when he skates for the second straight game on the top forward line.

Holmstrom’s ascension to the top line – along side Pavel Datsyuk and Danny Cleary – was necessary when Todd Bertuzzi came down with an illness last week, which first sidelined the veteran forward for Saturday’s 5-0 win over Anaheim.

“I have my chance, but I have to go full out and try to make it hard for (coach Mike Babcock) to put me back to less ice-time,” said Holmstrom, who has a goal and three assists.

Bothered by knee and other injuries in recent years, Holmstrom has averaged 12-minutes of ice-time in 10 games played this season. However, in playing up on the top line Saturday, he logged nearly 15 minutes, including 12:25 of even-strength time.

“The thing about Tommy is that he competes and works hard,” Babcock said. “Right now Bert isn’t available. (Holmstrom’s) playing in that spot. He played good in that spot the last game. He does what he does, I mean, some times it’s not pretty through the neutral zone, but he’s great in the offensive zone, and he grinds and he works and competes and gets in front of the net.”

It’s the life that he’s led in front of so many NHL nets that has created lasting wear-and-tear on his body through the physical abuse that he’s encountered in 15 NHL seasons. And teammates like captain Nicklas Lidstrom just marvel at Holmstrom’s durability.

“I don't know how he does it at this age,” said Lidstrom, laughing. “He's had his share of injuries over the years, but he's comeback and battled hard. Just his work ethic has allowed him to overcome so many of those injuries. If he's hurt or banged up he's always working, that's why he's back up on one of the top lines.”

While Holmstrom has toiled on the fourth line, it’s on the power-play where he continues to contribute by working hard in front of the net and digging out pucks from the corners.

“He's basically created a roll for himself and it has kept him in the league – what is it – 15 years now?” forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “He's still going strong. A lot of times you only think he can be in front of the net but he sees the ice very well and he's really good at getting pucks back and working in the corner. … He's a good fit for the top line.”

As players get older, they physically feel like they’re more valuable when skating more minutes, not less. Lidstrom has said in the past that he’s a better player when he plays more and sits less, so he understands Holmstrom’s desire to increase his playing time.

“He doesn’t like to rest, he’s a competitive guy,” Lidstrom said. “He wants to play as much as he can. He's got a lot of pride too. He wants to play in every situation. I'm sure he wants to be out there killing penalties if he could. He's just that type of player that wants to be out there all the time.”

For Holmstrom, who is No. 6 all-time in franchise history with 113 power-play goals, increased ice-time can only help productivity, he said.

“I’m getting my limited ice-time on the power-play, but let’s say it’s two power-plays a game, that’s going to be tough for me to get a lot of ice-time, you know?” Holmstrom said. “But what can you do? It’s not ideal for me, and it’s really tough to get going when you’re playing limited minutes, and sitting a long time. It sure is tough to getting a flow. But that’s how it is right now, and I have to prove that I want more ice-time.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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