ANAHEIM, Calif. – Coach Mike Babcock plans to unveil yet another new look to the Red Wings’ fourth line for tonight’s winner-takes-all Game 7 against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center.
It will be the fifth change to the fourth line in the Western Conference quarterfinal series and the first time this year that Cory Emmerton won’t be in the Red Wings’ lineup.
Patrick Eaves, who sat out Game 6 in Detroit, will replace Emmerton on the fourth line. Eaves will be paired with veteran forwards Mikael Samuelsson and Todd Bertuzzi.
According to Babcock, the Red Wings lacked a little too much of what the 5-foot-10 Eaves brought to the first five games of the series.
“I just thought we didn’t turn enough skin in the offensive zone. I didn’t think we were physical enough,” Babcock said. “Last time Patty played I think he had seven finished checks or six finished checks. I trust him with the puck. I want Samuelsson for the power play. I like Bert to take the body. I went through it all, and I tried to figure out how to do it.”
In six playoffs games, Emmerton doesn’t have a point and is a minus-4.
However, all three veterans that will make up the fourth line in Game 7 have experience in series-finales. Each has played in four Game 7s in their careers.
Bertuzzi, Eaves and Samulesson are natural forwards who have little experience taking face-offs. Combined the three have taken four draws in this series with Eaves winning 1-of-2, and Bertuzzi missing on both of his chances in Game 6.
The plan for now is to just roll with the face-off responsibilities and cross that bridge once they get to it. But the other duties that come with playing in the middle shouldn’t be a problem for the veteran trio in what is right now at least, the biggest game of the season.
“It's not a big difference how we play in the game. The only difference is down low,” said Samuelsson, who has played some center before, but not with the Red Wings. “For you it maybe sounds like a big, big deal, but I don't think it is. If you read the play, stay on the right side, stay calm and jump in holes it'll be fine.”
Something the Wings’ veteran fourth line will have to contend with the youth of the Ducks’ fourth line with 20-somethings Emerson Etem and Kyle Palmieri, who have already scored huge goals in this series.
“They're quick, they're fast players, they're very talented, they got (David) Steckel in the middle, big man, great at faceoffs,” Eaves said. “I think we match up well. I think we're a fast line too. When we're against each other the speed of the game is great. I'm sure we'll all have a little extra jump.”
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