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Holmstrom makes life miserable for Coyotes

by Michelle Crechiolo / Detroit Red Wings
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DETROIT – Despite experiencing a reduction in ice time, Red Wings’ forward Tomas Holmstrom had a triumphant return to what many call his “office” on Friday.

Holmstrom’s net-front presence was the turning point in the Wings’ 4-1 win. He planted himself in front of Phoenix goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov and capitalized on opportunities, scoring the game-winning goal and registering an assist in a 70-second span.

Before Friday, Holmstrom hadn’t registered a point since assisting on Johan Franzen’s goal in the second period of Game 2.

But for Game 5, Holmstrom was back doing what he does best – grinding it out in front of the Phoenix net.

“You know how it is, the puck’s going to bounce your way,” said Holmstrom following the team’s Saturday skate in suburban Detroit. “Sometimes it goes out, sometimes it goes in. This time, I got a little lucky with the way it bounced.”

Holmstrom had been a fixture on the Wings’ top line with Pavel Datsyuk and Franzen for the first three games of the series. For Games 4 and 5, however, Holmstrom was moved to the fourth line. He was reduced to playing less than 10-minutes each game, with the majority of his time coming on the power play.

But he understands that his net-front presence is what the team needs him for, and plans on doing it for however long he’s on the ice.

“That’s my role,” Holmstrom said. “That’s what I’ve been doing for a long time. I would love to do moves like Pavel and (Henrik Zetterberg), but I can’t, so I do my role.”

While Holmstrom would like to play more, he understands his team must do whatever it takes to win, even if that means reducing his minutes. He just has to make the most of the minutes he does get.

“You have to try and do the best with the situation and try to show that you want more ice time,” he said. “As long as we win the games, that’s most important at this time of year, for sure. Of course I want to play more, like I said. I have to try to do my best with the ice, and hopefully he can squeeze me in on the first line, too.”

The Coyotes did everything they could to prepare for Holmstrom before the series began, even instituting a practice drill in his honor. Big-bodied defensemen like Ed Jovanovski and Zbynek Michalek have the edge in size and weight over Holmstrom.

But Holmstrom is just too good at what he does, and relishes every opportunity he has to “wear out” Bryzgalov and the Coyotes defensemen, even though it’s not always an easy – or fun – task.

Persistence is key for Holmstrom.

“I think they punish you around the net for sure,” Holstrom said. “And they make it tough for you to go to the net, but you know, you just got to keep coming, keep coming. Just sort of make it as tough for them as possible, especially in a 7-game series. We have lots of games, so hopefully I’ll wear them out before they wear me out.”

The one goalie who can appreciate Holmstrom’s ability is Wings rookie Jimmy Howard.

“For me, it’s good because I get to use him in practice, and I get a lot of work on it,” Howard said. “But for an opposing goalie, it’s a pain. … It’s amazing how he gets his stick on almost everything.”

SHAKING OFF THE JET LAG: Wings coach Mike Babcock wanted to make sure his team wouldn’t come out as flat and tired as they did a week ago, losing Game 3 at Joe Louis Arena.

Instead of giving his team the day off after landing in Detroit on Saturday, the Wings went straight to an ice rink near the airport to hold a short practice.

“We basically just had a pre-game skate, to try to make sure our legs are ready to go (Sunday),” Babcock said. “Last time we came back for an early game, we didn’t play very well. So whatever can help you be successful, that’s what we try to do.”

While the players were taken slightly by surprise about the decision to skate, they understood it was necessary in order to be prepared for Sunday. And once they got on the ice and got moving, they felt good.

“I think we’re just trying something different,” Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “Instead of having a day off (Saturday), you come here. … Just to get our legs going again, and kind of skate the rust off our legs after flying for four hours.”

Forward Dan Cleary agreed, saying, “Obviously we didn’t have the result we wanted last Sunday. So it was good to get out and kind of get the rust off a little bit.”

The Wings have a 3-2 series lead. A win on Sunday would advance them to the Western Conference semifinals.

NOTEBOOK: Defenseman Brian Rafalski was the only player who did not skate. He took a maintenance day and will be in the lineup on Sunday.

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