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Mrazek to start Game 3 vs. Tampa Bay

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Brendan Smith and Petr Mrazek will get see their first game action of the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs when they both draw into the Red Wings' lineup for Game 3 on Sunday night. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – When things aren't working, you have to make changes.

The Red Wings did that during the regular season and they're doing it again as they are down 0-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in their first-round playoff series.

Jimmy Howard found out on the plane ride back from Tampa after Game 2 that Petr Mrazek would replace him in goal for Game 3.

"First of all Jimmy’s done a good job through two games, so it certainly isn’t a matter of him doing a good enough job," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "We got a really good goalie as well in Petr Mrazek, who’s had a history of success. Last year he did a real good job against Tampa, so we made the decision to put Petr in."

Tomas Tatar said a lot of the goaltenders' success depends on the play of the team in front of them.

"I think both guys did a good job, it's about how much we will help them," Tatar said. "We have to play together, play tight and help them block shots. I think they did a good job from their side."

Although Mrazek did not win the seven-game series last year, he did shut the Lightning out twice.

Mrazek hasn't started since March 29 in Montreal but he did relieve Howard March 29 in Boston.

"I wouldn't say difficult," Mrazek said of the layoff between starts. "Just when you work hard, practice hard, you stay in the game and then if you get the call to be in the net, you just go in there and do your best."

Mrazek has also shut out the Lightning in the regular season.

"He's a good goaltender," Lightning forward Tyler Johnson said. "He's really aggressive in the way he plays, he comes out and challenges the puck. He relies on Detroit to take up the backdoor seams, that kind of play. You've got to try to find that opening just because he is so aggressive but he's an athletic goalie, he can make those saves when he's down and out. Any opportunity that you get to finish, you're going to have to try to score."

Since his last start, Mrazek has spent a lot of time with goaltending coach Jim Bedard working out his problems.

"He went through a stretch where he wasn’t playing good enough and I think sometimes you need some time away, so I think it’s been positive that he’s had the opportunity to get away and get back to work on his game and I think he’s worked really hard with Jim Bedard to work on some of the things, getting his feet set, make sure he’s got great management of the crease, those type of things make him real successful," Blashill said. "I think the time away has been good. I think the work he’s put in has been great and I think he’s prepared to go out and do a good job and now he has to go out and execute.”

Lightning coach Jon Cooper said his team has to maintain the same mindset.

"Regardless of who they have in goal, that doesn't change what we've got to do," Cooper said. "We've got to shoot the puck and get it past them."

Mrazek, 24, is excited for the opportunity to get in the series.

"When you watch it from the bench, you always want to help the team, you want to be on the ice and get the win," Mrazek said. "It's kind of hard to watch it but we have to play better than we did. I think in front of the home crowd it will be better tonight."


LINE CHANGES: In addition to switching goaltenders, the lines were all switched up during Sunday's morning skate.

Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg were no longer on the same lines.

Zetterberg was with Dylan Larkin and Gustav Nyquist. Datsyuk was with Darren Helm and Brad Richards.

Luke Glendening was centering Justin Abdelkader and Riley Sheahan while Joakim Andersson was with Andreas Athanasiou and Tatar.

"We didn’t practice yesterday so we just tried some different lines this morning in case we want to go to them in the game but we’ll make decisions on exactly what lines we want to go with once we get into the game," Blashill said.

Although nothing is set in stone, the players weren't surprised by the different looks.

"I think it’s just the coach’s decision," Sheahan said. "Obviously we lost the first two, so we want to switch something up. Who knows how long it will last. I think it’s good to switch things up and try to get a few different looks at different lines."

Former Wing Valtteri Filppula said he didn't think the Wings were acting out of desperation.

"I think that's kind of normal in the playoffs, when you lose some games you need to try to figure things out," Filppula said. "I don't think it's anything unusual and I don't think it's a desperation play."


LIGHTNING LINE: One line that certainly won't change is Tampa Bay's trio of Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn.

That line has accounted for 15 points in the first two games of the series.

With two goals and four assists, Johnson is ahead of his pace from last season when he had six goals and one assist in the seven-game series.

"It's playing with good players, you're able to make some plays and then be able to compete and use your skill and use your speed," Johnson said. "That's always a big key for us. Only way you can use your speed is you have to battle for that ice and I think we've done a good job of that and things have been going our way a little bit and hopefully just continue doing that."

For the Wings, they are searching for ways to counter that line.

"However many goals they have they have maybe one more chance than that," Blashill said. "They’ve been very good at scoring on their chances, so we got to eliminate a few defensive mistakes. I think with any line, the more space you take away the better you’ll be. I think with any line the more you make them defend the better you’ll be. If all you do is defend them the whole night you’re probably in trouble. So, we got to make them defend, we got to try to take their space away and we got to make sure we execute defensively when they do have opportunities."

Lightning forward Mike Blunden was battered and bloodied during a final-minutes scrum with Justin Abdelkader in Game 2. (Photo by Getty Images)

BATTERED AND BRUISED: Lightning forward Mike Blunden was still looking a little rough Sunday morning, two days after he tangled with Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader during a scrum in the final minute of Tampa Bay’s Game 2 win at Amalie Arena.

“I didn't know I was that bloodied until I got to the back room,” said Blunden, who told reporters after the game that he needed nine stitches to close a cut lip.

“It's just stuff happens,” he said. “You wear a visor to protect your eyes and it's just unfortunate it cut me.”

Aside from the stitches, Blunden received a two-minute roughing minor at 19:06 of the third period. He was among 10 players who were assessed a variety of penalties totaling 93 minutes ranging from slashing to a game misconduct.

The melee began when Brad Richards slashed Andrej Sustr in front of the Lightning’s crease. Then the commotion started as players from both teams joined the fray.

“Everyone's just trying to get in and get a guy, you don't want anyone being 2-on-1 or anything like that,” Blunden said. “Emotions are high, it's been a physical series so far and I'm sure it's going to keep going.” managing editor Bill Roose contributed to this report.

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