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Hudler's heating up

by Dave Burke / Detroit Red Wings
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DETROIT – For the first three months of the season, Jiri Hudler struggled mightily, registering just 10 points in 38 games. He was even a healthy scratch at one point, missing four games as a coach's decision. With all of the injuries to key forwards, Hudler appears to be benefiting.

“Well, obviously Huds is a guy who’s supposed to come through,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Huds will tell you and I’ll tell you we never thought it would take him this long to get his game back.
“He got into a ton of battles (Thursday). I’ll give you an example, he flipped it in against two great big D-men yesterday, I think it was (Eric) Brewer and (Erik) Johnson and he went in and got the puck. He used to do that all the time. At the start of the year, for some reason, that didn’t happen. I thought when he came back to a team where he knew everybody, he wouldn’t miss a step, but obviously he did. Now he’s got it back and we just want him to keep getting better defensively as well, so that he can play well in all situations. Then he sets-up the winner last night in OT, so good for him.”

Hudler, who has seven points in his last eight games, is now more valuable then ever since the recent injury bug took a bite out of the Red Wings’ roster.

Guys like Hudler, Patrick Eaves, Darren Helm, and Jakub Kindl are being called up more to fill voids created by injuries to regulars like Mike Modano (wrist), Pavel Datsyuk (hand), Danny Cleary (ankle), Brad Stuart (jaw), and Tomas Holmstrom (hand).

In the wake of these injuries, coach Mike Babcock has said time and again that more people will be expected to step up and provide offense. The Red Wings might be starting to see this happening after their 4-3 overtime victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday. Eaves scored his 13th goal of the season against the Blues, which is a career-high for the third line winger. He now has 17 points and is on pace to smash his old career-high (22) that he set last season.

Kindl, a highly-touted rookie defenseman, also scored his first NHL against the Blues while pinching in on an offensive charge. And in overtime, Helm, who is also five points from setting a career-high, finished off the game with a goal on a two-on-one breakaway – with an assist from Hudler.

Hudler, who has gotten off to a slow start, had three assists in the game and now may be heating up with four points in his last five games.

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