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Wings count on Mrazek in back-to-backs

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

BOSTON – For the fifth time in six weeks the Red Wings will finish a set of back-to-back games on the road when they face off against the Boston Bruins tonight at TD Garden.

And for the fifth time, coach Jeff Blashill will count on Petr Mrazek to inject the defense with some energy. The coach said there’s nothing to Mrazek starting the second games, it’s just worked out that way.

“Petr’s done a good job in these back ends of back to backs, but it’s more it’s worked out that way,” Blashill said.

The Red Wings are 3-1-0 in the second games of back-to-back sets. Jimmy Howard has worked all five back-to-back opening games, posting a 1-3-1 record in that span.

Blashill’s reasoning for using Mrazek on the second nights is twofold.

“His ability to play the puck – and Jimmy’s done a good job playing the puck – but Petr’s got a real good ability to play the puck, which helps fight against the other team’s forechecks,” Blashill said. “That can help you get out of your zone. And he’s got his own swagger to him, so he’s done a good job with it.”

The Red Wings enter Saturday’s game having produced just 22 goals in their past 12 games. That’s a 1.83 goal per game average, which is down considerably from the first four games when they scored 14 goals – an average of 3.5 goals per game.

Injuries have certainly played a role in the offense’s shortcomings; however, with Pavel Datsyuk getting back up to speed, the hope is the offense’s luck will begin to turn around soon.

Datsyuk made his season debut Friday in a 3-2 loss to San Jose at Joe Louis Arena. The Red Wings’ star center had surgery in June to repair ruptured tendons in his right ankle.

“Pav’s an elite player,” Blashill said. “Like any player, though, when you’ve been out months and months and you don’t have a training camp and you hop right into the regular season it’s very difficult, no matter how hard you’ve been working and he’s been working extraordinarily hard. I thought Pav had moments of greatness. I think his game will be better five games from now than it was last night, once he continues to get into the groove of the season.”

According to Blashill, forward Teemu Pulkkinen will not play tonight against the Bruins. Pulkkinen, who scored in Friday’s loss, will be replaced in the lineup by Joakim Andersson, who missed Friday’s game as a healthy scratch.

“Pulky’s got a little bit of soreness, so he couldn’t go today,” Blashill said. “Definitely a day-to-day thing.”

Blashill did a lot of line changing from the second period on against the Sharks. The Wings’ coach said he will not revert to the same line combinations that he started with Friday, though he did not offer specifics.

“We’re going to start a little bit different,” Blashill said. “We’ll probably play with the line combinations as we go through the game. The only thing about when you insert players you try to figure out the best fit for your team. Obviously, we inserted Pav and then we inserted Andy, so we got to keep working through that as we go through the game.”

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