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Three Questions: Wings-Sabres

by Michael Caples / Detroit Red Wings

Who were the top performers for the Red Wings in the preseason?

Veteran – Center Henrik Zetterberg.  Hank led the way for the Red Wings this pre-season, taking over right where he left off from last May.  The Conn Smythe winner had four goals and four assists in four pre-season games, leading the Wings in all three categories.  And, in typical Zetterberg fashion, he dominated at both ends of the ice, killing penalties and finishing behind only Johan Franzen for the team lead in plus/minus.

Newcomer – Left wing Ville Leino.  The 24-year-old rookie out of Finland was turning heads from his first game on North American ice.  In seven games, Leino had three goals and three assists for six points.  His third goal, which he scored in tonight’s pre-season finale, was a demonstration of his offensive skills.  After a great pass from Captain Nick Lidstrom, Leino broke in on the Buffalo net, froze both the Sabres’ defenseman and goaltender Ryan Miller with a fake slap shot, then beat Miller five-hole while he was sprawling out of position.  On a side note, this decision wasn’t easy, and it was a little easier when I decided that center Darren Helm didn’t make the ‘newcomer’ list, since he played in the playoffs last year.

What was the best goal/save of the preseason?

Goal – Franzen’s backhand in the October 3 match-up against Toronto.  At the 15:15 mark of the first period, Franzen grabbed a puck in the midst of chaos in front of goaltender Vesa Toskala’s net, and from the slot ‘Mule’ blasted a laser from the backhand to roof the puck over the Toronto netminder’s shoulder.

Save – I have to pick against the Red Wings and give this one to Montreal goaltender Carey Price.  If it wasn’t the pre-season, Price’s save in the September 30 game in Montreal would already hold the label of ‘save of the year’.  Defenseman Brian Rafalski took a shot from the point, and after a weird bounce, the puck ended up floating up over Price’s head.  With a spin and a flail of his goal stick, Price swatted the puck away from a wide-open net and Franzen, who certainly wouldn’t have missed the empty net.

What was the turning point of Sunday finale?

The Red Wings owe their 3-0 win Sunday night to their penalty kill specialists, who stared down a four-minute penalty to Mikael Samuelsson with eight minutes left in the second period, and didn’t flinch. Instead, the Red Wings generated the majority of the scoring chances in the four minute span, and then drew a Buffalo penalty right afterwards. The momentum carried over to the third, where the Red Wings tallied goals from Franzen and Leino in the first five minutes, and never looked back.

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