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Without stars, others must seize chances

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Without their top two scorers in the lineup, the Red Wings must count on guys like Johan Franzen and Daniel Alfredsson to carry the offense for the next few weeks. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – With the team’s top two scorers out of the lineup, the Red Wings will look to others to pick up the scoring slack as Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk recover from injuries.

“You look at both those guys hurt, probably top five in the league, that’s how good they really are,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “And of course, being without two guys like that it’s going to show but at the same time we just got to come together, play a team game and we should be able to be just fine.”

Wednesday's game against Philadelphia will mark the first regular-season game since April 18, 2006 that both Datsyuk and Zetterberg will miss the same game. The Wings lost, 6-3, at Nashville in the season finale. Datsyuk was out with a knee injury, while Zetterberg was a healthy scratch.

Datsyuk has missed the last four games with concussion-like symptoms, and Zetterberg will miss his first game Wednesday when the Red Wings host the Philadelphia Flyers at Joe Louis Arena. Zetterberg, the Wings’ leading scorer with 30 points in 28 games, has a herniated disc in his lower back that is expected to keep the captain off of the ice for at least two weeks.

Since snapping a seven-game winless streak last month, the Red Wings have been on a bit of a winning roll, compiling a 5-1-0 record, and out-scoring their opponents 24-11 during that stretch.

While Zetterberg and Datsyuk have accounted for roughly 30 percent of the Wings’ goals this season, secondary scoring, which had been an issue, has been on the rise. Nineteen different 19 players not named Zetterberg or Datsyuk are currently on some variation of a point streak.

Kronwall is coming off a week where he earned ‘Second Star’ recognition from the league for his six-game point streak that helped the Wings to three straight wins over the Bruins, Islanders and Senators. Forward Justin Abdelkader has produced points in four consecutive games, while Darren Helm has points in 7-of-9, Johan Franzen in 5-of-6, and Daniel Alfredsson in 4-of-5.

Since Helm’s return to the lineup, coupled with the Gustav Nyquist getting call-up permanently, puck movement has improved and forwards have managed to slice through the neutral zone a lot faster, thus helping the Wings spend more time in the offensive zone.

“A lot of things have been working for us,” Kronwall said. “Helm’s really been a big factor since he came back, he’s got the confidence, he’s been flying out there. That line has really been good for us. The other lines have been doing well, too, whether that’s scoring goals or playing really solid defense. We’ve been able to spend more time on offense, it’s a working process, but I think definitely we have things moving in the right direction.”

Regardless of how well the Wings do in the coming days and weeks, the absence of the Euro Twins will certainly have a ripple effect on the team.

“We are missing our two best players, so, you know, the good thing is we’re been playing a lot better lately and kind of got into the winning ways and everyone is playing with a lot more confidence,” Franzen said. “So hopefully we can ride this out without him. We’re just going to keep playing the way we’ve been playing. We’ve got so many lines going right now, so I think we’ll be fine.”

Following the Wings’ practice Tuesday morning, they recalled center Cory Emmerton from their minor-league affiliate in Grand Rapids. Emmerton played in four games with the Red Wings before he was sent down to the Griffins in mid-October. In his time with the Griffins, Emmerton has produced three goals and 14 points in 18 AHL games.

Veteran forward Todd Bertuzzi will not play against the Flyers, and goalie Jimmy Howard will get the start on Wednesday, coach Mike Babcock said.

Howard is coming off his second shutout of the season when he turned aside 29 shots by the Islanders on Friday.

“I think when I’m playing well I’m really reading the plays out there,” Howard said. “I’m just in position, I’m not over-moving. I’m going to try to concentrate on keep doing that.”

As for Bertuzzi, he participated in all of the drills at practice Tuesday, but he will sit out for the sixth straight time with an undisclosed upper body injury.

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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