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Rough stuff

DETROIT >> Of the seven penalties the Wings drew Sunday, four were for roughing.

“Emotions are running high,” Darren Helm said. “(Milan) Lucic said it pretty well after he got (Danny) DeKeyser, emotions sometimes get the best of you. Last night I thought that’s what happened. Emotions are running high, we got into some scrums that we shouldn’t be getting into. We’re a team that plays between the whistles, not after the whistles.”

“It’s a lot of emotions out there,’ Nyquist said. “It’s the playoffs. They like to get involved after the whistles a lot. We’re standing up for ourselves. It’s just how it is in the playoffs. There are a lot of emotions.”

Three of the Bruins’ penalties on Sunday were for roughing.

“I think it’s pretty clear, our team has to be physically engaged, but again, within the rules,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “When we’re not we’re in the penalty box. We have to find a way to stay out of the box a little bit more. To me, we’re in the box for too many penalties and down the road that can hurt you. So playing within the rules and being physical is part of our strength, so we have to be that team. The after-whistle scrums are certainly not pre-planned, it’s just two teams that are intense and ready to battle for their space and it’s as easy as that.”

Babcock not worried about a suddenly cooled-off Nyquist

DETROIT >> Gustav Nyquist was the hottest goal scorer in the league in the month of March.

Once April hit, he cooled off.

He’s gone eight straight games without a goal.

“I need to try and use my speed a little more, shoot the puck and get on the inside,” Nyquist said Monday at Joe Louis Arena. “I’ve got to spin off those big guys, get in front of the net because that’s where the goals are going to be scored. That’s something I have to improve on for sure.”

Nyquist has one goal in April, which was the game winner against Boston on April 2.

“I need to shoot the puck more,” Nyquist said. “I haven’t shot the puck as much and that’s something I need to change.”
Nyquist has a total of 20 shots over his last eight games, four of which came in Sunday’s 4-1 loss in Boston that evened the best-of-seven first round series.
“It’s a tight game out there,” Nyquist said. “There aren’t many scoring chances.”

Despite playing in just 57 regular season games, Nyquist led the team with 28 goals.

“It’s not even scoring, you’ve got to compete, you’ve got to get playing like you can,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Anytime you’ve been through it, and now suddenly instead of being a guy nobody ever heard of, like last year in the playoffs, you’re a guy they’ve heard of.

“His space is probably a little harder to come by,” Babcock continued. “You’ve just got to find your game.”

Tomas Tatar was second in goals with 19.

“The thing I know about Nyquie is he always seems to find his game,” Babcock said. “I’m not concerned. I had a chat with him (Sunday) night on the plane. I expect him to be very good.”

Analogy of the day … Wings coach Mike Babcock

DETROIT >> Wings coach Mike Babcock came up with a perfect analogy regarding the on-ice incident between Brendan Smith and Zdeno Chara near the end of the first period of Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the Bruins.

“I thought he made a good decision,” Babcock said. “I don’t know why he’d go toe to toe with him.

“The way I look at it, if you’re a really good speaker then you should find employment speaking,” Babcock continued. “If you’re a really good fighter you should find employment fighting. So you walk into the bar and there’s this beautiful young gal standing next to this 6-foot-9 monster who you know makes his living fighting for a living and you’re the best pool player in the bar. Are you going to play pool or are you going to fight? Figure it out. It seems simple to me.”

Boston had the second most fighting majors during the regular season with 46. The Wings had a league low seven.

“One guy’s 6-foot-9, one guy’s not,” Babcock said. “What would be the good decision? I guess all I’m saying is I think you should do what you do well … play pool.”

Chara had two fighting majors this season as did Smith.

Smith not backing down from anyone, but does need to keep that between whistles

DETROIT >> Quick update from the Wings’ optional skate at Joe Louis Arena on Monday morning.

Brendan Smith finally addressed the on-ice altercation he has with Zdeno Chara near the end of the first period of Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins.

“I want to stand up for myself and standup for my teammates and I will,” Smith said. “I’m not saying I won’t, but I’ll do it between the whistles. You don’t have to do stuff after the whistles. I’ve learned that in the last little bit.”

Smith and Chara squared off and appeared to be close to dropping the gloves had it not been for a linesman stepping in between.

“A lot of times you try and grab someone before they get into the pile to make sure someone doesn’t get in there and get a cheap shot,” Smith said. “I think he came right over to me and that’s how it started.

“It’s all spur of the moment kind of stuff,” Smith continued. “There was a lot said. I really don’t even think about it. I can’t even remember to be honest with you. Everyone is dwelling on it, but this is what it’s like in the playoffs.

Chara, who’s 6-foot-9, had a grin on his face the whole time during the altercation.

“We’re not saying we’re going to back down, but the best way for us to be victorious in the end is to play between the whistles,” Smith said. “That’s what I’m saying. Guys like (Justin) Abdelkader, myself and (Kyle) Quincey, we’re not going to back down, but we’re not going to hurt our team because there’s no point to it.”

Boston had the second most fighting majors during the regular season with 46. The Wings had a league low seven.

Chara had two fighting majors this season as did Smith.

“You want to play tough and hard between the whistles,” Smith said. “After the whistles we’d like the refs to take a little more control of that. Maybe that was a first test so we’ll see what happens. Where you score is between the whistles and that’s what we need to focus on. All this stuff after the whistles doesn’t mean anything to us.”

Of the seven penalties the Wings drew Sunday, four were for roughing.

“Emotions are running high,” Darren Helm said. “(Milan) Lucic said it pretty well after he got (Danny) DeKeyser, emotions sometimes get the best of you. Last night I thought that’s what happened. Emotions are running high, we got into some scrums that we shouldn’t be getting into. We’re a team that plays between the whistles, not after the whistles.”

“It’s a lot of emotions out there,’ Gustav Nyquist said. “It’s the playoffs. They like to get involved after the whistles a lot. We’re standing up for ourselves. It’s just how it is in the playoffs. There are a lot of emotions.”

Red Wings’ enemy No. 1 … Milan Lucic

It didn’t take long for Detroit Red Wing fans to find enemy number one in the opening round series against the Boston Bruins.

And his name is Milan Lucic.

Lucic speared Danny DeKeyser in the groin late in the second period of the Wings’ 1-0 win over the Bruins in Game 1 Friday night in Boston.

Lucic, who did not receive a penalty on the play, was handed a $5,000 fine by the league on Saturday.

“I don’t think there’s a place for it,” said Brendan Smith. “When I look at Lucci, I think he’s just a big man, a big enforcing man. He’d scare you in other ways instead of doing that. Maybe it’s just one of those moments. I don’t’ know if he’ll continue to do that.”

This isn’t the first time Lucic has speared an opponent between the legs. He did it to Montreal’s Alexei Emelin in similar fashion on March 24.

“Maybe a little bit (of frustration),” Lucic said on Saturday. “Obviously, kind of the heat of the moment thing when you’re not thinking and you do something like that. I’ve been in the league for seven years and I think I’ve only done that three times. I don’t know why I did it, like I said I think it’s a heat of the moment thing that unfortunately I did. I believe in playing within the rules and for me I definitely won’t be heading down that road again.”

DeKeyser fell to the ice after the incident, but didn’t miss a shift.

“It’s just funny, I never do that,” Lucic said. “But unfortunately I’ve done it twice in the last little bit here so I’m not going to make it a habit. I don’t know why I did it both times. It’s not going to be a habit of mine. I believe in playing it in between the rules, the right way, that’s what I’ll continue to do.”

DeKeyser said he isn’t feeling any lingering pain.

“It’s a tough time of year to play,” Jimmy Howard said. “Stuff like that is going to happen. You just hope the officials catch it and if not you’ve just got to play through it.

“We’ve got to keep our head out there, keep our cool, because they seem to thrive off of that,” Howard continued. “They like to get in those scrums after whistles and we just got to remember whistle-to-whistle and just skate away.”

There were only three penalties called in Game 1, two of which were to the Bruins.

“I’m not interested in the referees solving any problems,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I think the players are out there deciding who wins and I think that’s good. I thought the game was officiated just fine last night and I thought both teams tried to be as disciplined as they could.”

“We have nothing to gain from getting into scrums and things like that after the whistles,” Niklas Kronwall said. “Do a good job of focusing on the game instead. Staying out of the box is something that’s very important because we know how dangerous their (power play) is.”

Boston was the 11th least penalized team in the league during the regular season, while Detroit was 27th.

“We want to play in between the whistles,” Smith said. “All that junk that happens after, there’s no point of it. We want to stay very disciplined in that sense and just play our game and use our speed and take advantage of it”

Babcock goes back to Tuesday’s line combinations as he prepares for anything in series with Bruins

DETROIT >> On Thursday, Wings coach Mike Babcock went back to the forward line combinations he used Tuesday at practice.

Those lines were Pavel Datsyuk centering Johan Franzen and Justin Abdelkader, while Tomas Jurco was on a line centered by Darren Helm along with Daniel Alfredsson. Gustav Nyquist was back with the Kid Line of Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar.

“In my mind we have three ways we can go,” Babcock said after practice Thursday at Joe Louis Arena. “I tried to go through those so you’re always prepared. You’re trying to see in advance for adjustments so we’re trying to do that. We think in their building (Patrice) Bergeron is probably going to play against Pav and probably (Zdeno) Chara as well.

On Wednesday, Nyquist was with Datsyuk and Abdelkader and Jurco was with Sheahan and Tatar. Franzen, Helm and Alfredsson made up the other line.

“So we can load up that line or have different kind of lines,” Babcock said. “We want to have a plan for adjustment if it’s not going the way you want.”

The fourth line of Luke Glendening centering David Legwand and Drew Miller remained the same.

Wings’ motto: ‘They can’t hit what they can’t catch’

DETROIT >> The Detroit Red Wings’ motto heading into their first round series with the Boston Bruins seems to be, ‘They can’t hit what they can’t catch.’

“They are a hard, big and strong team,” Tomas Tatar said. “If you want to avoid a hit you have to be fast and move the puck fast, skate a lot, just try to beat the D by your speed.

“We have lots of fast guys,” Tatar continued. “That’s why I think the Bruins have a problem with us. We just have to use it against them. It’s going to be a hard matchup, but that’s what we’ve got to do.”

“We’re a pretty speedy team and that’s been in our game plan to use our speed,” Gustav Nyquist said. “Of course that’s something we’re going to try to use. They can skate as well. They’re probably a little bit bigger as a team than us, so we’ll try to skate as much as possible.”

“Their physical-ness from top to bottom,” Jimmy Howard said when asked what he feared the most from the Bruins. “Seems like every single guy is over 6-foot, 200 pounds and can skate. They’re physical. We’re going to have to cut guys off and not allow them to get on top of our defensemen.”

“We need to use our speed to slow them down, stay above their players, cut guys off, don’t give them anything easy,” Darren Helm said. “Get a good forecheck going and run their D. It’s going to be important. The more time we spend in their zone the better. It’s going to be a tough series.”

As big and burly as the Bruins seem to be, they only ranked 13th at the end of the regular season in hits with 2,008.

“No,” Johan Franzen said when asked if he was worried about the physical style Boston plays. “We’ve been talking about that for the last nine years that I’ve played here in the playoffs, how tough all of the other teams are but that’s usually not a problem for us.”

“I don’t think it worries us at all,” Niklas Kronwall said. “We’ve played big teams in the past. I don’t think that’s been a factor when we played those teams. We have to utilize our speed and try and play as physical as we can and be heavy on the puck.”

The Wings finished 13 spots below in hits, totaling 1,621.

“You only have speed if you execute. If you don’t execute you have no speed,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Their focus will be to take our speed away by getting on the forecheck and making sure we don’t execute. Our focus will be first-time execution so we can have speed so we can play in their zone.

“They’re a big team and they want to be as physical and heavy as much as they can be,” Babcock added. “When you’re a quick team you want to get on them.”

The influx of young skaters due to injuries has helped the Wings’ speed game and they’ll need all of it going against a big, deep and skilled group of Bruin forwards, six of which had 51 points or more this season.

The Bruins rank third in the NHL in goals per game (3.15), while Detroit was 16th (2.65).

Boston’s blue line is just as intimidating led by 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara.

“I think we’re actually a harder team than we’ve ever been since I’ve been here,” Babcock said. “I think we have the ability to play heavy. We have some smaller type players that have the ability to be physical. What sets them aside from anyone else is (Milan) Lucic and Chara. They have them, we don’t, but we have a lot of big bodies as well.”

If the Wings are able to get through all that they have a world class goalie to contend with in Tuukka Rask, who’s almost assured of earning a Vezina Trophy nomination.

The Wings did win the season series 3-1 with Boston, outscoring the Bruins, who have appeared in the Stanley Cup final two of the last three seasons, 13-9 in the process.

“It doesn’t mean much now, but we know that we can play with them,” Franzen said. “They also have a strong playoff history here lately. They’ve been going far for many years now so they know how to win in the playoffs, but so do we. It’s going to be a tough matchup and there are going to be some good games.”

“We’ve shown that we can handle the physicality,” Nyquist said. “They’re a good team and it’s going to be a challenge for us. They play physical but we’ve shown we can handle that in the past. That’s obviously something that we’re going to have to be ready for.”

This is the first meeting in the playoffs between this Original Six teams since 1957. The Bruins have won four of the series.

Zetterberg takes part in 30 minutes of practice; Babcock again reiterates how good having three days of practice was for this team

DETROIT >> Quick update from Wings practice prior to departing for Boston to open the series with the Bruins on Friday.

Henrik Zetterberg skated with the team for roughly 30 minutes and took part in a number of the drills.

“I think today is just one of the steps that I have to take,” Zetterberg said. “I have to start skating with the team a little bit. I didn’t do that much but hopefully I can do more tomorrow.

“It felt good,” Zetterberg added. “It’s fun to be out there with the boys again and like I said I didn’t do that much today but the stuff I did felt good and I’m looking forward to next time.”

Zetterberg underwent successful surgery on Feb. 21 in New York to remove part of a disc which was rubbing against a nerve, which caused severe back pain.

“I think you just have to take it step by step,” Zetterberg said. “I got the medical team looking after me too and they will pull me out when they think it’s time but I think today I was probably out there for 30 minutes and tomorrow I have morning skate and hopefully I can get out there a little bit more and still feel good.”

Zetterberg has been sidelined since the Winter Olympics after playing just one game with Sweden.

He hasn’t ruled out possibly returning in the first round of the playoffs, but it’s more likely he’ll be back if the Wings advance to the next round.

“I think that time-wise we were shooting for round two if everything goes well,” Zetterberg said. “We’re taking it step by step here and day by day and increase intensity every day and hopefully in a couple days maybe I can do some more battling drills.”

Despite playing in just 45 of the Wings’ 82 games this season, Zetterberg finished tied for third on the team in points with 48 and led the team with a plus-19.

“I saw him at Nick Lidstrom’s retirement March 6 and he couldn’t walk,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He hobbled his way out onto the ice. Now he’s out there skating. That’s a long way in a short period of time. Anyone that’s been injured and off a good chunk of time when they arrive back they see how fast everything is. It’s hard. That’s the tough thing about injuries, even when you get the guys back they’re not themselves. They wear the same number, but they don’t do what they did because it’s just too hard.”

Zetterberg, 33, missed 11 games in December with a slightly herniated disc. He also missed two games in January due to it.

Zetterberg began having issues with his back in 2008, which made him miss the All-Star break.
In 2007, he injured his vertebra and missed several weeks.

Jonathan Ericsson skated on his own for about 25 minutes.

He’s been out since having successful surgery to stabilize his fractured finger and repair a partially torn tendon on March 19.

Babcock again reiterated how good having three days of practice was for this team.

“We needed to get some guys healthy,” Babcock said. “We’ve had seven D all year, but then most of the year someone has been hurt so we’ve been wearing on six D in practice and in games instead of having eight. That was good to freshen up that group. We had some that were bumped and bruised.

“The lower seed, the more detailed orientated they can be to close the gap is good as well,” Babcock continued. “We know Boston now, but you can throw that stuff out too because once the puck is dropped it’s whoever wants it the most in the end is going to win. That’s how it happens. A least we’re prepared.”

Babcock juggles up his top three lines two days into preparing for series opener with Boston

DETROIT >> Just two days into Detroit’s preparation for its opening round series with the Boston Bruins, Wings coach Mike Babcock has already changed up his forward line combinations.

On Tuesday, Pavel Datsyuk centered Johan Franzen and Justin Abdelkader, while Tomas Jurco was on a line centered by Darren Helm along with Daniel Alfredsson.

On Wednesday, Nyquist was with Datsyuk and Abdelkader and Jurco was reunited with the Kid Line along with Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar.

“I think it’s helped even more that we’ve adjusted so well and we’ve done it together and we’ve relied on each other,” Sheahan said of the lines with his former Grand Rapids Griffins. “Obviously Tats and Nyqi and sometimes Tats and Jurcs, we have some good chemistry but I think it’s just working hard and that’s the biggest thing.”

Franzen, Helm and Alfredsson made up another line.

“There are a lot of things we’ve got to do,” Helm said. “They’re a really good team and we’ve got to be on top of our game, doing everything we can as well as we can. If we do that, then we’ve got a chance to be successful. If not, if we’re not driving to the net, forechecking hard, being in position, then it might be a short series.”

The fourth line of Luke Glendening centering David Legwand and Drew Miller remained the same.

Ericsson back on skates Thursday; hasn’t ruled out return in first round if series goes long

DETROIT >> Jonathan Ericsson will skate on his own Thursday for the first time since having successful surgery to stabilize his fractured finger and repair a partially torn tendon on March 19.

“We’ll see how that goes,” Ericsson said. “It’s been almost four weeks now.”

He still won’t be able to handle the puck due to the splint on his left hand.

“I think it’s too early to tell,” Ericsson said when asked if he could return sometime in the first round of the playoffs. “The round could go on for about two weeks. It’s not going to be at the beginning of this round I know that. I’ve got three more pins in there that need to be taken out. I think it’s next week, end of next week. After that I think they will know more what the timeframe it.”

Ericsson had one of the pins removed last Friday and will have the other three taken out in 10-14 days.

“The tendon is taking more time than the bones to heal,” Ericsson said. “It’s looking pretty good from what the doctors are saying. We’ll see how it looks when they take the pins out.

“It was a shot that hit me and it must have hit me badly,” Ericsson said. “The doctor had to go in there and puzzle everything back together. They did a really good job. It looks nice right now. It was a bad break, bad breaks.”