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Home ice offers line change help for Pens

by Michael Caples / Detroit Red Wings
PITTSBURGH -- The Red Wings were able to contain the Penguins’ stars in Games 1 and 2 partially because they had the last change at home.  The Wings were able to watch, who the Penguins put on the ice, then decide who they wanted to counter with.

Arriving in Pittsburgh meant the Wings were at the opposite end of the line-change advantage.  The Penguins seemed to break out of the Wings’ defensive spell last year in Game 3 by utilizing the last change, and it seemed to help this year, as well.

Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said the line change battle took its toll on Henrik Zetterberg.  The Penguins’ coach said Wings coach Mike Babcock was trying to get Zetterberg on the ice too often.

“Well, you could see what Mike was trying to do with getting Zetterberg out there on the change every chance he could get,” Bylsma said.  “I think the one advantage we had tonight because they were trying to get Zetterberg out there so much, there were times when he got out there tired.”

Zetterberg played 24:19 in Game 3, accounting for a goal and an assist in the first period.  He spent 2:00 on the power play, and 2:43 on the penalty kill.  Captain Nicklas Lidstrom had more ice-time (26:40), but Zetterberg had 31 shifts compared to Lidstrom’s 27.

Babcock said that the line change battle makes it easier on the coaches, but that it evens out.

“It just makes it easier to get people on and off the ice smoother, and get what you want,” the Wings’ coach said.  “But we had that for two games, too.  So it works out.”

When asked if the game felt like a chess match tonight, Lidstrom said "a little bit". 

Yeah, sometimes you're out there at the start of a shift, and you get out as quick as possible," the Wings' captain said.  "You're looking for match-ups.  Especially being on the road.  You don't have the advantage of the last change.  You've got to be more alert and coming on and off the ice that much quicker."

Lidstrom said that he was pleased with how his team handled the frequent line changes, however.

"I thought we handled it well," Lidstrom said.  "Sometimes you have to play against a line that maybe you're not supposed to match-up against.  I thought we handled it well."

Penguins forward Bill Guerin echoed Lidstrom's thoughts on the game.

“It was more of a chess match tonight,” Bill Guerin said.  “I thought both teams stayed within their game plan so well and it was going to come down to one shot and it did. I think one of the reasons Detroit has so much success is that they never deviate from their game plan. They never do. It’s something we can learn from and we have. I think the guys did last year and I think we’re getting better at that as the playoffs go on.”
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