Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan switched up his lines on Saturday night by dressing an extra defenseman and shuffling eleven forwards. Defenseman Niclas Wallin earned the golden ticket and made his way back onto the ice for the first time since missing the last nine games due to injury.
Wallin took his first shift alongside Kent Huskins and went on to play nearly ten minutes of ice time over 17 shifts while making two hits in the Sharks 2-1 win. The 6-foot-3, 220 pound defensemen also registered 1:34 on the penalty kill.
“I had a good first shift so I kind of got comfy right away,” said Wallin. “It’s been a long time, but I’m good to go now so it’s nice to be back.”
In his postgame press conference, McLellan explained his decision for adding Wallin into the lineup for Game Five.
“Wally’s been hurt so for him to come back in a situation like this was real big for us,” said McLellan. “But what Wally gives you is a big, big body, some experience back there and good penalty killing. When they ended up putting Bertuzzi and Franzen together with Zetterberg, we needed a little more size at times down low. If it wasn’t going to be Murray, then it was going to be Wallin.”
“I heard I would be playing last night, but I’ve been ready for three or four days,” added Wallin. “I felt really good skating and there were not setbacks. They knew I was ready and this morning they said they were going with seven (defensemen).”
By choosing to dress seven D-men, McLellan went with just 11 forwards, leaving Jamie McGinn and Scott Nichol without a regular linemate. But Nichol had no problem with that because the team benefitted from having Wallin back on defense.
“It was great. We rolled a left winger or a right winger, sometimes Patty was with us or Clowe. It was good to have Wally back in there. He’s a big solid man who can kill penalties and dig in the trenches. It was good to see him back and play really well tonight.”
Alongside Patrick Marleau
and Ryane Clowe
, Dany Heatley took some double shifts on the fourth line. Heatley registered 20:33 which ranked third among forwards after Marleau (22:17) and Clowe (21:16).
“We dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen so we were a little short on the forward end,” said Heatley. “Some guys were filling in on the fourth line; I look a couple, Patty took a couple.
“You always want to play as much as you can,” added Heatley. “We’ve been going out with three lines quite a bit in this series and it wasn’t much of a change.”
Like a game of chess, Detroit Head Coach Mike Babcock lined up his defensive core with seven players as well. Having an injured Brad Stuart on his mind, Babcock decided he couldn’t gamble on Stuart leaving the game early and stacked his defensive core to prepare for the worst.
“Brad has a sprained MCL and Stuart is as tough as they come,” said Babcock during his postgame press conference. “But we were scared if we ended up with five defensemen after five shifts we would be in trouble. We wouldn’t have played him normally, but we were up against the wall and we felt that if he could play, it would be positive for us. They played seven defensemen as well tonight. We knew it was going to be a three line game; it’s been a three line game all series.”