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Miller's time at center

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Coach Mike Babcock plans to juggle his fourth line tonight when the Red Wings take on the winless Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.

Rookie Cory Emmerton, who played in all six previous games, will be replaced in the lineup by veteran Drew Miller, who will play center for the first time this season. Emmerton and forward Fabian Brunnstrom are the Wings’ only healthy scratches.

Veteran forward Tomas Holmstrom returns to the lineup tonight after sitting out Saturday’s 7-1 loss at Washington. Babcock has made it known that Holmstrom will not play the second game of back-to-back nights this season, as was the case last weekend.

Holmstrom will be joined by forwards Patrick Eaves and Miller.

“I just know that I’m giving the veteran guys an opportunity to see what they can do,” Babcock said. “Emmerton’s got the nod all along because he played well and because he’s a center.

“They all think that they should be in the game every night; we’re going to watch.”

Miller said that he’s played some center in the minors and during his collegiate days at Michigan State, but tonight will be a relatively new assignment for him.

“The first year here, with injuries and stuff, I played a little bit of center,” said Miller, who has won 1-of-5 draws this season. “I feel comfortable taking draws and playing that position. It will be a little different at first, but I think overall, it will be an easy transition that I can make.”

Miller’s main face-off competition tonight will be Blue Jackets center Derek MacKenzie, who has won nearly 50 percent of his draws. But Miller said that he’ll be ready for the challenge.

“I’m not the best, but it’s something that I’ve been working on, and will continue to work on,” Miller said. “The biggest thing for me is just tying up and trying to get – not a loss – but get a chance for my wingers to get in there and get those loose pucks. You don’t want to lose (draws) clean.

“We watch video on face-offs and their guys and the techniques and their tendencies, so we watch that and prepare accordingly.”

Babcock would like more stability on the fourth line, but for now he wants to see more puck-possession out of them, and that begins with winning face-off battles.

“They’re a huge concern. A concern every night,” Babcock said. “Cory Emmerton is finding his way. The one thing that we’ll know for sure is they (the fourth line) won’t be taking a D zone face off, so it will be simple.”

Asked if there’ll be added pressure on him tonight, knowing that if he’s tossed out of the faceoff circle that neither Eaves nor Holmstrom are accomplished centermen, Miller said, “I think Patty is in the same boat as me, he doesn’t take a lot of face-offs, but he’s able to get in there and play that position, too. We’ll see tonight. He might be taking some on his strong side, I’ll be taking some on my backhand strong side.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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