Wings’ Pregame Includes Adjustments

The Detroit Red Wings left their game with Anaheim Tuesday night vowing to do better. Better composure. Better puck management. Better push. They were saying the same thing Thursday after their morning skate, their preparations for the Ducks and game two complete.

Their coach, interestingly, ended his press conference with the same words he intoned on Tuesday evening, saying that he was disappointed to see his team play essentially like they had in their early season. That is, poorly.

He also made a shift in his lineup, dumping Jordin Tootoo, whose crosschecking penalty led to Anaheim’s first goal, and reinserting Todd Bertuzzi. The latter has not played since February 7th due to a back injury.

Bertuzzi, who is 38, adds grit and the ability to hang onto the puck while supplementing a lineup which is made up of a surprising number of youngsters. They include Gustav Nyquist, 23, Brian Lashoff, 22, Danny Dekeyser, 23, and a few 24 year-olds. Not what the Wings were in years past, for sure.

Bertuzzi came out after practice, a golf shirt under his suit, his face sporting the growth of beard that for him is proabably a couple of days but for others would be a week. His hair was gelled, but he didn’t have his bottom couple of missing teeth in. Looking at him, the word “grizzled” came to mind, at least as much as it can with a guy as nattily dressed as he was.

“I’m looking forward to helping the guys, whatever it is, being part of it again. It’s a really important game tonight and bring it back to Detroit,” he began.

When asked how much he has to remind himself not to try to do too much in his return after missing 40 games. “One thing I’ve got going for me is it’s not my first year. I’ve been around a bit and I understand the game and I understand the playoff game. Just going to try to get it deep, work it down low.” It’s the formula every reserve forward recites in this circumstance.

“I don’t really care where I’m playing. I’m in the lineup now putting on the jersey. I’ll do everything I can to help these guys out. Whether that entails six minutes, ten minutes, whatever it is, just try to be the best I can out there.” He further said that dealing with stops and starts, which was his difficulty in rehabbing his injury, has gotten better. He was told only today that he will be in.

Justin Abdelkader said about getting Bertuzzi back, “It’s nice. Big body. He can hold onto pucks. Physical. He’s playoff tested. We’re looking forward to the little spark he can give us.”

There’s also the possibility that Mikael Samuelsson will draw into the lineup, though the coach said he will be a gametime decision.

For the Wings, those changes may help, but what they can’t do anything about until they get back to Detroit is the matchup which crippled them on Tuesday, namely, the Anaheim third line against the Wings’ top unit. The group of Abdelkader, Pavel Datsyuk, and Henrik Zetterberg was held to eight shots, and as I detailed in my story on that game, they were victimized by the speed and creativity of the line assigned to check them. With Boudreau having last change at home again Thursday, there won’t be anything Mike Babcock can do about that until the series moves back to the Motor City. His guys will just have to figure out how to use their puck possession game to their advantage.

But when they don’t have it and the Ducks’ line that’s on against them does, what? Well, that could be the difference in this game. Note over against that that the Ducks’ first line, though they were double-shifted early, was not dominant.

The Ducks, for their part, are not planning to make any lineup changes. Their coach said that their sniper, Selanne, is fresh, something he himself said after Tuesday’s game. That was in part due to the excitement of scoring the winning goal, no doubt, but also because of the rest he cited as having in the week before the playoffs began.

One assumes, because there’s no reason to think otherwise, that the Ducks will keep using Hiller, who was good when he had to be Tuesday, including one game-saver in the early going, a toe save off Filippula from right in front of the net. And that they’ll stick to their game plan, which demands speed and long diagonal passes to rattle the other team.

As for the Wings, “We’ve just got to playing the way we can, the way we have for the last month of the season,” Abdelkader finished up. “Gotta have a smarter game, be harder on pucks in all three zones.” If anyone knows how to get to the Ducks, it might be him. He led his team against Anaheim this year. In three games, he had three goals and one assist.

Gametime is 7pm, normal for the Ducks. Tuesday night was a rare 7:30pm start.

Red Wings Notes

The team was on the ice for nearly an hour, practicing the usual mix of breakouts, deflection drills, line drills, and goalie positioning exercises.

Goalie Jonas Gustavsson said to IH after practice that he likes to follow the game when he’s not playing, and that he’s interested in the Toronto series, though he didn’t get a chance to catch their first contest.

In Red Wings history: on May 2, 1952, Gordie Howe won his first Hart trophy as the league’s MVP.

In Ducks-Wings history: this is the 27th all-time meeting in the playoffs. No wonder the rivalry feels real to fans. Over against that, as most know, the Kings and Ducks have met exactly zero times in the post-season to date.

The Wings have won 14 of the playoff games coming into tonight, with the Ducks then obviously taking 12. Detroit is slightly worse on the road than at home, dropping seven and winning six.

Please follow me on Twitter @growinguphockey

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