DETROIT – The one knock on Valtteri Filppula since he became a member of the Detroit Red Wings has been he doesn’t’ shoot enough.
This season he seems to have finally gotten the message.
Through four games, Filppula is fifth on the team with 10 shots. Henrik Zetterberg leads the team with 20 shots on goal.
“Sometimes he likes to make that extra play, when sometimes the best play is to shoot the puck and then there’s a rebound,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “I think he’s had the mentality so far this year by getting more shots on net.”
Filppula has been held without a shot once this year and had a season-high four shots on goal in Saturday’s overtime win over the Minnesota Wild.
“I think Fil’s playing real good,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “If he continues to shoot the puck and get on the inside like he has been he’s going to have a real good year for himself.”
In three of the past four seasons, Filppula has ranked 11th on the team in shots on goal. The other year he was 10th. Five seasons ago he was 16th with just 76 shots.
Filppula had a career-high 122 shots on goal four seasons ago, which ranked him 11th.
“He’s always had a good shot, he just never used it,” Jiri Hudler said. “Now he’s on the left area and that’s perfect, because he’s got a stick inside right away with a quick release.”
Babcock has Filppula on the second line with Hudler and centered by Johan Franzen.
“That’s something we’ve talked to him about a lot the last few years, to get more shots off,” Lidstrom said. “I think him and Mule are playing well together, whether he’s at center or on wing. They interact and change positions, communicating real well together. And Fil’s been skating real well, you can tell that when he has the puck.”
Filppula has played center most of his career.
“The biggest thing about playing winger, you’re play differently when you’re in your own end,” Filppula said. “And I think you get more chances, offensively, that way. You don’t attack anymore as you do as a center does.
“Usually as a center you attack against all five guys, or four guys,” Filppula added. “Now as a winger you have one or two guys ahead of you, which is a good thing, because it gives you more changes.”
The move to wing has given Filppula more opportunities to shoot the puck.
“We’re winning games, so that’s the main thing,” Filppula said. “I’m excited about playing it. But the big thing with us is that it’s not a huge difference if you’re a center or you’re a wing. You’re just reading what other guys are doing, and then you react. Obviously, not taking as many faceoffs is the single biggest difference.”
Between them the line has produced five goals, six assists and is a combined plus-12.
“I’ve played three games with him and the Mule and I like it,” Hudler said. “We get a lot of chances. We could have scored more than we did, but it’s going to come. It’s a progression.”