DETROIT – For the third straight game, coach Mike Babcock has decided to jumble the look of the Red Wings’ fourth line against the Anaheim Ducks as the Western Conference quarterfinal series shifts to Joe Louis Arena for Game 3 tonight.
Veteran right wing Mikael Samuelsson will play for the first time since March 31 when he suffered a strained pectoral muscle against Chicago. He will skate on a forechecking line with center Cory Emmerton and left wing Patrick Eaves.
Samuelsson replaces Todd Bertuzzi, who played less than 8-minutes in Thursday’s 5-4 overtime victory, which evened the best-of-seven game series at one win apiece. Agitating forward Jordin Tootoo played in Game 1.
“Well, I just watched the game and I thought Sammy could help us. That was it,” Babcock said, following Saturday’s morning skate.
For Samuelsson, tonight’s game will be his career playoff game No. 100, and his first with the Red Wings since Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“I have to play a simple game, that's priority No. 1,” said Samuelsson, who has produced 22 goals and 36 assists in the postseason. “Just play a simple game, skate hard and hit guys. That's where I'm going to start, and hopefully I'll get a feel for the puck.”
Besides playing with Emmerton and Eaves, Samuelsson will man the right point on the Wings’ second power-play unit, opposite of defenseman Jakub Kindl.
It’s been a frustrating season for Samuelsson who missed most of the season with a plethora of injuries, beginning with a sore groin during training camp in mid-January. He started the season, but aggravated the groin in the second game. He returned to the lineup a month later, but the day after returning, he suffered a fractured index finger that kept him away for six weeks.
In all, Samuelsson produced an assist with four shots on goal and a minus-3 rating in four games.
“Unfortunately, I got injured, but that's nothing I think about right now,” Samuelsson said. “Like everybody else, I come in here really excited about tonight. Playoffs (are) awesome. That's what I live and die for. It's going to be fun.”
DEBUT PREPARATION: Brian Lashoff is as prepared as he’s going to be when he plays in his first career playoff game tonight in Game 3 against the Ducks.
“I’ve been watching plenty of video, so there’s no reason I can’t come in and contribute,” Lashoff said. “I’ve been taking warm-ups and coming to the rink every day like I’m playing. To get the call like that is definitely exciting. I’m ready.”
Lashoff got the call after fellow rookie defenseman Danny DeKeyser suffered a season-end thumb injury late in Game 3 at Honda Center.
Babcock had other options, but chose Lashoff over veterans Carlo Colaiacovo and Ian White.
“Obviously it’s been awhile since I played, so I’ve been itching to get out there,” Lashoff said. “I’ve been watching plenty of video and working out. I’m ready to go.”
Lashoff played in 31 games this season, but the 6-foot-3 defenseman – who was given the nickname ‘Smash’ by teammates – hasn’t played since April 4 at Phoenix.
Even as a healthy scratch, Lashoff has noticed the difference between the regular season and the playoffs.
“The intensity is up a notch or two. It’s really physical and more competitive, which I like,” he said. “It’s been fun to watch, but at the same time, I want to be out there.
“I think it’s do the things that got me here. I came up for one game and ended up staying the whole season. I’m going to be focusing on keeping it simple when I have the puck and playing good on the penalty kill.”
BRUNNER’S TAKE: Playoff hockey is nothing new for Damien Brunner, who spent six seasons in the Swiss League, where his teams always qualified from the postseason.
But this spring is a little different for Brunner, who said the Red Wings have been playing playoff hockey for the last two weeks.
“The intensity did pick up but I thought it's not that big a difference like everyone says,” Brunner said, referring to the first two games against the Ducks at Honda Center. “I thought we already played playoff hockey just to get into the playoffs.”
Brunner was among five players to make their NHL postseason debuts this week for the Red Wings. But he’s make the biggest impact, collecting a goal and two assists in Thursday’s 5-4 overtime victory.
“It's fun, that's what it's all about,” Brunner said. “I felt good right away in Game 1, too. We had a good jump. Legs were going. Unfortunately we didn't score.”
The 27-year-old forward, who has been working on the third line with fellow rookies Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson, is looking forward to playing in his first playoff game at The Joe.
“It's going to be awesome,” Brunner said. “I've been waiting for this for quite a bit now and I'm really excited to come in. … It's going to be an awesome feeling walking into The Joe tonight.”
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