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'Kron the Destroyer' makes impact

by Michael Caples / Detroit Red Wings
Kronwall lines-up Brad Richards for a body-checking during Game 1 of Thursday's Western Conference finals at Joe Louis Arena.
DETROIT – Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall continues to throw is weight around in the playoffs.

Kronwall added to his big-hit totals in Game 1 when he victimized Dallas’ Antti Miettinen with a bone crunching open-ice hit. Kronwall found Miettinen looking back for a pass just inside the Dallas blue line.

Kronwall lowered a shoulder and directed it at Miettinen, sending the right winger sprawling through the air. The body-check seemed to spark the Red Wings, who scored a few minutes later, extending their lead to 4-0 and putting the game out of reach for the Stars.

The second-period hit was just the latest in a line of game-changing Kronwall hits this postseason.

“You just try to time it and see what's going on out there. Like today,” Kronwall said of his hits. “I had a chance to step up and today it worked.”

Babcock said that had Kronwall been healthy in prior postseasons, nobody would be as surprised by his play this year.

“I think if you would have gotten to see him last year at playoff time, you would have seen then, too,” Babcock said. “He's been a real good player since he's come over here. 

“He's had a lot of freak accidents that have led to serious injuries. He's been able to recover, and obviously he's a real important part of our team. I noted today him and (Brian) Rafalski and (Nicklas) Lidstrom are leading the NHL back-ends, (Stephane) Robidas is next in scoring.”

Lidstrom said that Kronwall’s hits are clean, but still full of force.

“Kronwall is so good reading when to step up,” Lidstrom said. “His timing is so perfect all the time that he can read that, before even the pass is made, that’s where the puck’s going to come. He’s able to step up at the right time. He’s been doing it throughout the regular-season and playoffs, too.”

McCARTY STILL OUT: Babcock said Friday that Darren McCarty will remain out of the line-up for Game 2 at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday. McCarty was a coach’s decision scratch for Game 1.

When asked if it was difficult to sit the fan-favorite McCarty, Babcock said that the main goal is winning, and that was the only reason for his decision.

“I never thought about it like that,” Babcock said.  “It's just about winning. It's not about Darren. It's not about me. It's about the Detroit Red Wings. So none of that stuff comes into play.

“This is about our team and we're about winning, and you make a decision. You hope it's the right decision. You don't always know. And at this time I'm going the same way for (Saturday’s) game. It doesn't mean Mac's not important. It doesn't mean he's not part of the team. It just means that we felt this was the best decision.”

Veteran forward Kirk Maltby replaced McCarty’s spot in Game 1, his first playoff game this year after missing series wins over Nashville and Colorado with a groin injury.

McCarty has one goal, and has an even plus/minus rating in 10 playoff games this year.

KEY THE POWER PLAY: The Red Wings’ first three goals all came on the power play Thursday night, giving them 13 power-play goals in the 2008 playoffs. Rafalski, Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom all scored on the power play in Game 1.

Detroit has converted 23.2 percent (13-of-56) on the power play in the postseason.

“It was good for us,” Babcock said. “Obviously, we played them four times this year, and were able to muster up one power-play goal for 6.7 percent against them. They did the same; I think their power play was 9 percent against us. It’s very important we’re able to get skating early so we can draw some penalties and get some momentum.”

The only team with better power play numbers than the Red Wings was the team they kept 0-for-4 on the man-advantage Thursday night. Dallas has scored 15 power-play goals this postseason, accumulating a 23.4 power play conversion rate in its series wins over Anaheim and San Jose.

“And they’re going to be better, obviously,” Babcock said. “They had that four overtime game and now their legs will be back and the series will be on. They’ve got a real good team.” 

FUN FACT: Franzen has 27 goals in 27 games, a streak that goes back to March 2. In that time span, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have a combined 27 goals.

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