Kesler gives Ducks more bite

DETROIT >> The Anaheim Ducks were a hard team to play against already.

With the addition of Ryan Kesler, they just got a little tougher.

“Kesler’s a real good player, obviously, he’s from here, he likes to play well here,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said of the Livonia native. “(Ryan) Getzlaf to me is one of the best players in the world and (Corey) Perry is playing with him. That makes them a very dangerous duo to say the least.”

In the Ducks’ 6-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Kessler skated with Andrew Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg, while Perry was alongside Getzlaf and Patrick Maroon.

Kesler was traded from Vancouver to the Ducks this offseason.

“Any way you look at it that’s going to draw your focus,” Babcock said, looking forward to the Red Wings’ game against the Ducks at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday night. “Now, Kesler is a matchup center in the league. He would free up the Sedins (Daniel and Henrik) in Vancouver to play more. Maybe he’s going to be able to do that for Getzy.”

Most of the time, Babcock prefers to match up Henrik Zetterberg’s line – Johan Franzen and Justin Abdelkader – with the other opposing team’s top line, which means either the Riley Sheahan line – Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco – or Darren Helm’s line – Gustav Nyquist and Andrej Nestrasil – could get the Kesler line assignment.

“We’re going to see what happens at the start of the game,” Babcock said. “I always have a plan and I always have a B plan. If the A plan works, you stay with it. If it doesn’t you do something else. If that doesn’t work you do something else. We’ll figure it out tomorrow.”

Perry scored a hat trick in Thursday’s loss to the Penguins.

On the blue line, Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson will most likely be on the ice every time Getzlaf’s line is out there, while Danny DeKeyser and Brendan Smith will draw the Kesler line.

“We’ve got to focus on ourselves,” Kesler said. “We can’t worry about who we’re going to match up against. We don’t have home-ice advantage so whoever we’re against we’re going to have to be solid defensively but take it to them. Use our size and speed to really dominate.”

Kesler had a goal and two assists on Thursday.

“You hope by having two top centers, you see what these guys have sometimes when they split (Pavel) Datsyuk and Zetterberg up it changes the dynamic of the team and it just makes things harder to defend,” Cogliano said. “We’re trying to find matches and guys to play with certain guys right now but when you have two centermen like that it makes things hard for the other team. Kess adds another dynamic to our team, adds another element of competitiveness, a little attitude to our team. I think he just helps our overall emotional level in games.”


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