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Notes: PK schemes working for Wings

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Joakim Andersson is one of the fourth-line forwards who will be heavily counted on this season to help kill penalties. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT – Though it’s only two games, there’s already plenty to like regarding the Red Wings’ special teams, especially the penalty kill unit.

“We’ve done some different things,” Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said following Tuesday’s practice at Joe Louis Arena. “We’ve definitely changed it a little bit. Guys are really buying in and it feels good out there.”

The Red Wings are among just eight teams that haven’t allowed a power-play goal through the first week of the regular season. And it’s the first time in at least the past dozen years that a Detroit penalty kill has shutout an opponent through the first two games to start the season.

“I think we’ve been more aggressive than we were last year,” said Luke Glendening, one of the team’s top PK forwards. “I think we had spurts last year when we did OK, but we had spurts when we played pretty poorly too. Obviously we’re only two games in and we have a long way to go, but the further you move along the more confidence you get and coach (Tony) Granato has been great at bringing in new stuff, teaching us how he wants it done and to be aggressive.

“Every game that you can get a good kill or get a shot block on a penalty kill, anything like that, they’re all confidence builders and those are the building blocks that you want to start with.”

Detroit’s PK was 4-for-4 in the season-opening win over Boston, and 3-for-3 in last Saturday’s home loss to Anaheim.

Drew Miller was the team leader in shorthanded ice time a season ago and has led all Detroit forwards in blocked shots in each of the last four seasons. So far, he likes what he sees in the schemes implemented by Granato, who spent the past five seasons with Pittsburgh in a similar role.

“We have a system in place and everyone buys in and that's the key too, it is everyone working hard and buying in,” Miller said. “It's when one guy doesn't do something right is where it breaks down. So you've got to all be on the same page.”

Limiting simple penalties also lends itself to helping the team’s PK. Through two games, Detroit has picked up nine minor infractions; only four teams – Edmonton (8), San Jose (8), Nashville (7) and Columbus (6) – have fewer.

“We’ve talked a lot about keeping it under three penalties a game,” Glendening said. “Coach Granato has been saying that we’d have a good penalty kill if we only had to kill six minutes (a game), so we’re been trying to stay out of the box and that obviously is a huge help.”

An emphasis for the coaching staff is to cutback in minor penalties, particularly the avoidable stick infractions.

“Before the season started we looked at the penalty chart and we took a lot of penalties and penalty minutes (without) really having any tough guys,” Glendening said. “They were just stick penalties that we can eliminate from our game. If we can control those things, obviously our PK is going to have to do some work, but the less we can do the better.”

LOPSIDED: Mike Babcock won’t get caught up in frivolous statistics, but nonetheless, the Red Wings’ regular-season dominance over the Boston Bruins in recent seasons is difficult to overlook.

For the second time in six days, the Bruins (1-3-0) return to Joe Louis Arena for an Atlantic Division match-up against the Wings.

Since the start of the 2009-10 season, the Wings are 8-1-0 against the Bruins in the regular season, outscoring Boston 29-15 during that time. The Red Wings claimed a 2-1 opening-night victory over Boston last Thursday.

However, this time around, the Bruins will have center David Krejci, last season’s team leader in assists, points and plus/minus rating, on the ice.

“We just try and battle hard and not give up much space,” Babcock said. “They’re a real good team. They’ll have Krejci back in their lineup so they’re a better team than we played last. They’ve got all the pieces. They’re a team that needs a win badly. We’re a team that needs a win badly. It should be a good game.”

Gustav Nyquist
Right Wing  - DET
Goals: 2 | Assists: 0 | Pts: 2
Shots: 4 | +/-: -1
FORWARD SHUFFLE: It seems that forwards Gustav Nyquist and Justin Abdelkader have traded places on the Red Wings’ depth chart.

The move was made late in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Anaheim when Nyquist started the third period on Henrik Zetterberg’s top scoring line with Johan Franzen. Abdelkader was move down to the third line with center Darren Helm and Andrej Nestrasil.

“I played with those guys a little bit last year and in the preseason as well,” Nyquist said of his new linemates. “They’re top players in this league so they’re real good players that make plays. We’ll build chemistry so it’s fun.”

Actually, that chemistry, at least with Franzen, began more than three years ago in Nyquist’s first preseason in Detroit. Playing on a line with Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi, Nyquist scored twice in a 3-2 preseason finale win over Pittsburgh.

“We’ve been playing here and there with each,” Nyquist said of his fellow countryman. “He’s a great player, big body that can shoot the puck and make plays as well. He’s a smart player that thinks the game well. It’s fun playing with him.”

ORIGINAL SIX RARITIES: Over the next week, the Red Wings will play against Original Six rivals four times, beginning with the Bruins Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena. They’ll follow that with a home-and-home series against the Maple Leafs (Friday in Toronto, Saturday at JLA) and at Montreal next Tuesday.

The quadruple set of games marks just the third time in 25 seasons that Detroit has played four or more consecutive regular-season games against Original Six opponents.

“Definitely the Original Six games mean a lot and they're fun for the fans and they're fun for us,” Miller said. “I don't look at the schedule and say I can’t wait for this Original Six game or this Original Six game but most of the teams are really good teams right now and they're in our division so we've got to play well against them.”

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