DETROIT – Detroit Red Wings forward Daniel Cleary noticed something different about Valtteri Filppula at the team’s morning skate Monday at Joe Louis Arena.
Filppula was shooting the puck more than normal.
And shooting the puck is what the Wings want more out of the forward who has struggled to come close to last season’s career numbers he put up.
“He’s got a good shot, but obviously he’s a creative player and creative players like to pass,” Cleary said. “Just like (Pavel Datsyuk) or (Henrik Zetterberg), he likes to pass first. It’s just in them. But certainly when they decide to shoot the puck on net, even late in the season, that’s when they’re going to score goals. It’s good to see it, because he’s an important player for us.”
Filppula scored the Wings’ third power play goal in Monday night’s 4-0 win over Phoenix.
“It’s different seeing Fil shoot the puck on a two-on-one,” Cleary said of Filppula’s goal that he one-timed after a pass from Zetterberg to beat Mike Smith on the short side. “He probably could have had three (Monday), for sure.”
The goal was Filppula’s first in eight games and just his second in the last 17 games, giving him eight on the season.
“It’s just great, get a goal, we needed him to get a goal, to be an important player, to be on the inside, shoot pucks, be dominant for us,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We count on him for that. Ideally, (that) goal will help him take a step for us.”
Filppula had a career-high 23 goals last season to go along with a career-best 43 assists. He has 16 points in 38 games this season.
“Obviously I don’t think I’ve been playing as well as I should, but at the same time I’ve been trying to do the same things that I have been doing,” Filppula said. “I’ve been feeling pretty good out there of late and hopefully I can keep on improving.”
Filppula is in the final of a contract that’s paying him $3 million. He’s reportedly looking for a deal that will give him a $2 million increase per season.
“It’s always tough especially when your team (doesn’t) get wins, that’s the most important thing,” Filppula said. “You want to help the team to win. I’m getting a lot of ice time so you hope you can help the team more when you can. It’s frustrating. I feel like I’ve had good games, but you need to produce when you get to play that much and that’s something that I haven’t been able to do and hopefully that changes.”