Wings’ new top line has gelled together quickly

DETROIT >> How long does it take for a new line to form chemistry?

Well, if how the Detroit Red Wings new top line has performed recently the answer is two games.

Since Detroit acquired David Legwand from the Nashville Predators prior to the trade deadline on Wednesday, him and his new linemates – Johan Franzen and Gustav Nyquist – have combined for four goals and seven assists.

“We needed someone to play with them,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Kenny (Holland) being able to get the deal done for us before the deadline was a real positive. (Legwand is) a guy that’s been around and as soon as he gets more comfortable he’ll be even better. He’s really going to help our team.”

And Friday night’s 7-4 win over the New Jersey Devils was sort of a coming out part for the Wings’ top line.

Franzen had two goals and two assists, while Nyquist had a goal and three assists and Legwand finished up with a goal and two assists.

“You need your best guys to play at the top of their game every night and they’re doing it for us,” Brendan Smith said. “It’s something that we feed off of. It’s great to have Mule playing so well.

“Nyquist’s speed is scary sometimes and he takes everyone and Leggy’s just fitting perfectly in there,” Smith added. “He’s a great player. I think we feed off it and then the momentum swings kind of start with that line so it helps everybody and it gets us all going there.”

Also what’s making this lines success so odd is that Legwand has yet to practice with his new line since the Wings dealt Patrick Eaves, prospect Calle Jarnkrok and a third-round draft pick, which could move up to a second rounder if they make the playoffs, to the Predators.

That opportunity won’t come till Monday back at Joe Louis Arena.

“We haven’t really practiced together,” Nyquist smiled. “But Leggy’s a real smart player, plays real well defensively and offensively can make plays, just a really good center man in this league and Mule, we all obviously know he can shoot the puck and score some big goals. He’s been on fire here so that’s huge for us.”

Since the Olympic break Franzen has totaled six goals and five assists over five games.

“He’s got a quick release, kind of a different shot, I would say,” Wings backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson said. “It’s not the typical wrister. It’s a weird release. It’s tough to explain.

“He’s a smart player,” Gustavsson continued. “I feel like he’s one of those guys that he’s a split-second ahead of everyone else when it comes to shooting the puck because he scores a lot of different goals, I feel like. That means you’re a smart player, you’re quick in your mind and that combined with the quick shot you’ve got, that’s always tough as a goalie to stop.”

Franzen missed 22 of the last 23 games leading up to the Olympics due to a concussion.

“The Mule’s been good, he didn’t get to play very much, that’s all,” Babcock said. “Now that he’s playing it’s real obvious why he’s so important. Leadership wise he has to be a huge factor for us. When you’re one of the best players in the league you have to play like that each and every night. I think Mule’s been real good.”

Nyquist has two goals and six assists since the break.

“He’s obviously a good player,” Gustavsson said. “He’s a hard worker and he finds the dirty areas to go. He’s smart in a different way because if feels like he knows where the puck’s going to be end up and there he is, puts the rebound in or whatever it is. He works hard and finds space for himself and makes him available for good opportunities to score.”

Nyquist has 16 goals and 16 assists in 38 games this season.

“He’s got a real good hockey sense,” Babcock said of Nyquist. “He seems to score more, he used to pass it all the time. As he continues to shoot the more he’s going to score more.”

The team is 1-0-1 since acquiring Legwand and look to improve on that Sunday afternoon at the New York Rangers.

The line has helped ease the loss of Pavel Datsyuk (knee) for up to three weeks and Henrik Zetterberg (back surgery) for the rest of the regular season. The team is also without Darren Helm (concussion-like headaches) and Stephen Weiss (sports hernia surgery).

“It’s just fitting in and understanding the system and the way they play and doing those types of things,” Legwand said. “The more you play the more you’re going to get accustomed to the system and the routine that they play. It’s been good so far. It’s a quick adjustment. I’ve played a lot of games in the league and you’ve got to be ready for it and understand it.”

Having that line gel so quick will play an important role as the Wings try to make the playoffs for a 23rd consecutive season.


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