DETROIT – While it’s rare for NHL teams to purposely dress just 11 forwards for a game, the Red Wings will elect to do so for the second time in three games when they host the Nashville Predators tonight at Joe Louis Arena.
With center Stephen Weiss and forward Daniel Alfredsson still out nursing groin injuries, coach Mike Babcock plans to judicially distribute ice time to his forwards, especially Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, which didn’t sit well with Predators coach Barry Trotz.
“We’ve done that before,” Trotz said, “But that just means you’re going to see more of Zetterberg and Datsyuk. Actually I was hoping they were going to have 12 forwards.”
The Wings’ lines will be centered by Datsyuk, Darren Helm, Joakim Andersson and Justin Abdelkader. The initial plan is to double-shift wingers to get them into the flow of the game, but that also means the Wings will use seven defensemen, which causes different problems, Babcock said.
“It doesn’t help the D because you can’t get enough ice time for seven D you’re better off playing six and playing them,” the Wings coach said. “But for the forwards though there’s extra ice time and if you’re playing good you like extra ice time. What you do is get a rhythm going. You still roll four lines. You just put a guy through.
“If I’ve got them two lines apart, I’ll roll (Johan) Franzen through one time, Helm through another and (Tomas) Tatar through another. You get more ice time so that’s a positive.”
The Wings went with 11 forwards last Friday against Washington, but recalled Luke Glendening for their road game against the New York Islanders the next night. In Friday’s situation, Babcock didn’t have a choice when Alfredsson was a last minute scratch. Though Zetterberg and Datsyuk didn’t figure in the scoring against the Capitals, they both logged more than 24 minutes.
“When they’re back-to-back nights it’s difficult on the second night because you tend to overplay some guys you want to use,” Babcock said. “Like the other night what I did I ended up because we went to overtime, I had Zetterberg and Datsyuk at 24 (minutes) and that’s fine for that night when we have a day off the next day. When you’re going back the next night it’s not as good as you’d like it to be.”
Both Datsyuk (17:01) and Zetterberg (16:43) are in the top 10 among league forwards in average even-strength ice time, at No. 7 and No. 10, respectively. The Euro Twins are also on a bit of an offensive roll in the last eight games. In that time, Zetterberg has produced four goals and 11 points, while Datsyuk has registered six goals and 10 points.
“They play a full 200-foot game and Zetterberg does it in just a relentless fashion, Datsyuk does it in a relentless fashion, but he’s got those sick moves where you just don’t know what he’s gonna do,” Trotz said. “As an opposing coach I’ve been in here a lot of times and more than a couple of times I’ve seen Pavel Datsyuk pull some moves and even on the bench you’re like, I am not going down to me defenseman and saying, ‘Hey, you’ve got to do this’ because not too many people can stop that move.”
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