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Wings seek more offense, shuffle lines

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Coach Mike Babcock said Tuesday that he expects Valtteri Filppula to center the Red Wings' third line with Damien Brunner (24) and Daniel Cleary against the Sharks this Thursday. (Photo by Dave Reginek)

DETROIT – With three days off before the next game, coach Mike Babcock hopes to stimulate the Red Wings’ offense, shuffling the forward lines during practice on Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena.

“We need to generate (offense), we don’t want to give up anymore chances against and we want to be solid defensively and continue that way,” Babcock said. “But we’d like to generate more offense.”

With nine games left, the Red Wings are very much in the hunt for one of the final Western Conference playoff berths. However, so are nine other teams currently vying for spots four through eight. But the Wings’ offense has flat-lined over the last five home games causing some concern as they’ve produced just three-points in the standings while being outscored 17-8 in those games.

By moving Valtteri Filppula off the wing to third-line center between forwards Damien Brunner and Daniel Cleary – the trio has accounted for six goals in the last 10 games – Babcock hopes to spread more scoring chances through his four lines.

The move comes days after Babcock re-united Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg on the top forward line with Justin Abdelkader, and switched Johan Franzen to second-line center, where he remained in Tuesday’s practice along with wingers Drew Miller and Gustav Nyquist.

“By doing this we can generate more offense,” Babcock said. “We feel Fil, Brunns, Clears that’s a pretty good line. Fil’s been a good centerman for us. We like what Mule’s been doing here and we’re just going to spread our lineup out and go a little bit deeper.”

Brunner, who has missed the last two games with a hip injury, said Tuesday that he will be ready for Thursday’s home game against the San Jose Sharks.

“No pain at all,” Brunner said, Tuesday. “I hope I'll be back in the lineup.”

Meanwhile, Filppula, who has grabbled with a few different injuries this season, hopes the change from wing to center will provide a spark to his game. He has seven goals and 14 points this season, but just one goal in his last 10 games.

“We'll have to wait and see how that goes, if that helps,” Filppula said, of the move to center. “I definitely hope so. I feel like I've been playing a lot and getting chances and the puck hasn't gone in this year. Obviously there's still games left and fighting for a playoff spot, so hopefully it can do more to help the team.”

Drafted as a center by the Wings in 2002, Filppula has played the position sparingly over the last two seasons. It’s a position that he feels comfortable playing, though, especially in the faceoff circle, and it doesn’t require him to change his game plan much.

“Center plays a little more down low in your own end, so I have to be good defensively and I think when you're a wing you have to be good defensively, too, but you do that a little more when you're playing center,” Filppula said. “So that's pretty much the only thing changing, and taking faceoffs. I don't think I have to change too many things.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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