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Wings set to debut their ‘all center’ line tonight against Flyers

DETROIT >> The center of attention, so to speak, in Wednesday’s Wings home game against the Philadelphia Flyers will be their third line.

Pavel Datsyuk will center Darren Helm and Stephen Weiss.

All three are natural centers.

“We might be the only line in the NHL with three natural centers, so we should have success on the dot, hopefully, and some pretty good skill with Pav and Weisser,” Helm said. “We have to find a way to click pretty early.

“There are definitely some different aspects to our games that could gel together if we find a way to click, and it is exciting for me at least, playing with those two skilled, confident guys,” Helm continued. “If we find a way to click or gel it will be fun and pretty exciting.”

Datsyuk has missed his four straight games with a groin injury and six of the last eight.

“It’s very important for us to have him back,” Weiss said. “It’s a big boost to our lineup to have him back. Anytime he misses a game, it seems like it’s too long.”

Former Wing Kris Draper said playing on a line with Datsyuk was like winning the lottery.

“It definitely feels that way,” Weiss said. “When I saw the sheet this morning I had a little grin on my face. He makes the game a lot easier for the guys that play around him.”

Datsyuk is considered one of the best two-way players in the game if not the best.

“His ability to get the puck back is just one of the skill sets that separate him from a lot of other guys in the league, his ability to play defensively and steal pucks and turn it into offense,” Weiss said.

Datsyuk has been limited to 45 games in 2013-14 due to a knee injury and concussion. This season he’s already missed 11 of 21 games due to a separated shoulder and groin pull.

“He’s a guy I grew up watching, really and now to have a chance to play with him, it’s pretty cool,” Weiss said. “But you can’t be worried about that too much. I’ve just got to worry about what I’ve got to do and hopefully we can find some chemistry, the three of us.”

Datsyuk has five goals and six assists in 10 games this season.

“I thought initially it took him a bit to get back and then he was on fire and got hurt again,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “The big thing for Pav is as you get a little older in your career your physical fitness and the amount of care you take in keeping your body healthy is so important.

“He’s a high-end player for us,” Babcock continued. “I haven’t put him with (Henrik Zetterberg) on purpose just because … if he gets going maybe I’ll do that but right now leave him where he is and play him on a separate power play. I don’t think you can ever go wrong with having Datsyuk in your lineup.”

Not only is the line all centers, but they’ve all missed significant playing time over the past three seasons, combining to miss 306 regular-season games over that span – Weiss (140), Helm (83), Datsyuk (83).

Weiss had two goals in his return to the lineup Monday, doubling his output since joining the Wings two off-seasons ago.

“All signs are pointing towards being over the hump,” Weiss said.

Datsyuk a game-time decision Wednesday; centered a line with Helm and Weiss in practice

DETROIT >> From the looks of things, Pavel Datsyuk is set to return to the Wings’ lineup.

And it could come as early as Wednesday when the Detroit hosts the Philadelphia Flyers at Joe Louis Arena.

“I feel good,” Datsyuk said after practice Tuesday. “We’ll see (Wednesday) morning. I’m happy to skate full practice with team.”

Datsyuk has missed his four straight games with a groin injury and six of the last eight.

“Be better myself,” Datsyuk said when asked what more he felt he needed to do before declaring himself fit to go. “No (pain), it’s fine. Everything is fine so far. I need a little bit (of) pace with team, a little bit. Everybody’s flying.”

Datsyuk centered a line with Darren Helm and Stephen Weiss as wingers. All three players are centers.

Datsyuk also doesn’t want to be in-and-out of the lineup due to a lingering injury.
“It’s kind of difficult, what happened first time, looked like I was ready, but jumped in too early,” Datsyuk said.

Babcock puts Nyquist back on the top power play unit

DETROIT >> Quick update from Wings practice Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena before they fly out to Washington for a game against the Capitals Wednesday.

Wings coach Mike Babcock kept the same lines together he ended with in the loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.

Babcock wouldn’t confirm after if that would be the lineup he would be going with or not Wednesday.

Jimmy Howard did say he was starting in goal.

Johan Franzen (groin), Stephen Weiss, Daniel Cleary each skated in gray.

The Wings made one minor change to the power play, moving Gustav Nyquist back up with the top unit and Tomas Jurco moved to the second group.

“We changed it back, just trying to switch things around,” Nyquist said. “We haven’t been scoring. My jobs are a little different on both units. Now I’m with Hank and Pav and I’m going to be the guy in the middle, trying to retrieve a lot of pucks and get the puck back to those guys for them to make plays and obviously be ready to shoot when I get in the middle.”

Babcock had moved Nyquist down with Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar, Andrej Nestrasil and Danny DeKeyser so he would be able to shoot the puck more.

“We all have to have different jobs on the power play, obviously, but we want to work together at the same time,” Nyquist said. “As a power play we can be interchangeable and stuff like that so right now we’re just trying to find a way to score goals ’cause we haven’t done that so hopefully it starts tomorrow.

“We’ve had a lot of chances but we’re still not getting the puck obviously in the net,” Nyquist added. “It would be nice to get one here soon, to get things going. I think we have two really good groups with a lot of skill and I think a lot of players can put the puck in the net on those two units so it should be working.”

The Wings’ power play is just 2-for-30 this season.

“But when you’re scrambling sometimes you do things,” Babcock said. “I thought it was a real good idea we took (Nyquist) away and then we haven’t got anything to go. We’ve got to attack the net so I just thought those are the guys that have been scoring for us. We put them in scoring positions and see what happens.”

MRI reveals fluid on Helm’s shoulder; Bertuzzi returns; Babcock not sure on line combos

DETROIT – Darren Helm’s return to the Wings’ lineup has been going at quite a clip.

But now he’s back in a holding pattern.

Helm suffered a shoulder injury in Detroit’s 6-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers and will miss the next two games according to general manager Ken Holland.

An MRI showed fluid which means it’s either a sprain or strain according to Holland.

Helm will be re-evaluated Monday.

In just 15 games this season, Helm has seven goals and three assists.

Helm returned to the lineup on Nov. 2 after playing in just two games over the last 19 months, playing nearly 10 minutes.

He had missed 89 of the Wings’ last 91 games, last playing on Jan. 25.

To begin the season, Helm was sidelined with a back problem and then his groin became an issue.

The Wings will get Todd Bertuzzi back for Friday’s game at New Jersey, after missing the last six with an upper-body injury.

Bertuzzi practiced on a line with Johan Franzen and Gustav Nyquist Thursday.

“I’m not totally certain what I’m going to do with the lineup,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Obviously we got three centermen that are not available suddenly so that changes the dynamic of your team a little bit so we’ll figure it out. We’ve just got to get a lineup set so we can go in and find a way to win a game.”

Pavel Datsyuk (concussion) and Henrik Zetterberg (herniated disc) are also sidelined.

Datsyuk, who’ll miss his sixth straight game Friday, had his best practice since suffering a concussion on Nov. 23 after taking an elbow to his jaw from Ottawa defenseman Jared Cowen.

Holland said that Datsyuk would need a good week of practice before he could play.

“I haven’t talked to Pav since he skated, he skated in practice with us today there obviously that’s a good sign,” Babcock said. “I can see just by him dripping sweat there that obviously he worked here today so we’ll see when he’s ready.”

Babcock tabs Gustavsson to start Friday at New Jersey

DETROIT – Wings coach Mike Babcock didn’t hesitate when he was first asked about goalie Jimmy Howard.

“Gus is going (Friday),” Babcock shot back.

Howard allowed five goals on 33 in the Wings’ 6-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena.

Jonas Gustavsson, who will start Friday in New Jersey, is 7-0-1 this season with a 2.15 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage.

“I haven’t broke down the tape, so I’ve got no idea,” Babcock said when asked to assess Howard’s play. “I just know when you give up as many goals as we did, it’s not a good thing.”

Howard’s record dipped to 6-8-6, while his goal-against average ballooned to 2.70 and save percentage dipped to .909.

It’s not the start that Howard wanted to get off to in the month of December after going 2-3-4 in November.

Howard had a stretch last month going seven games without a win (0-3-4).

Flyers go 3-for-3 on PP, while Wings struggle with man advantage going 1-for-7

DETROIT – Life without Pavel Datsyuk hasn’t been that bad for the Detroit Red Wings to deal with.

Life without Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, their two leading scorers, so far is proven to be less than appealing.

The Wings squandered a two-goal lead midway through the second period, allowing five straight goals against in a 6-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena.

“Anytime you’re up 3-1 you want to win the game,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said.

The Flyers were 3-for-3 with the man advantage, while Detroit was just 1-for-7.

“Our penalty kill has been stellar for us all year long, we gave up some shots and they scored the goals,” Babcock said. “We had a chance on the power play ourselves and never got it done. In the end we had things going pretty good for ourselves through two and the third period wasn’t good enough, they were better than us. They’re better than us because they lite us up on the power play.”

Philadelphia, which improved to 2-18-2 at Joe Louis Arena over its last 22 games, got goals from six goals from five different players – Steve Downie, Matt Read, Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier (two) and Scott Hartnell – and a 32-save performance Steve Mason.

Tomas Tatar had a pair of goals for Detroit. Johan Franzen added the other goal and Jimmy Howard stopped 28 shots.
The loss snapped the Wings’ four-game winning streak.

All four wins in that stretch came without Datsyuk, who’s been sidelined while dealing with concussion-like symptoms.

Zetterberg missed his first game of the season and will be sidelined a minimum two weeks with a small herniated disc.

Wednesday was the first time Zetterberg and Datsyuk have been out of the lineup together since April 18, 2006, the final game of the regular season. Datsyuk sat with a knee injury and Zetterberg was held out to rest for the upcoming playoffs.

The Wings also lost that game, 6-3, to the Nashville Predators.

“We don’t have them,” Babcock said. “You can talk about it, no sense in us talking about it. We’ve got to win games, that’s all there is to it. There’s an opportunity for every one of these guys right here to lead, to grab the bigger piece and to grab their part. I thought Tatar was a factor so to me that means you get more. If you’re not a factor you get less. It’s real simple. So grab your piece when you get a chance. Those guys are good players and they’re going to come back and play. I guess the way I look at it is just play with confidence and just play.”

Tatar has three goals and three assists over his last six games.

Trailing 3-2 to start the third period, the Flyers, who had not scored more than three goals in the last 19 consecutive games at Joe Louis Arena, exploded for three goals in less than five minutes, two of which came on the power play to turn the table on their host.

Giroux evened the game for the Flyers just five minutes into the third period with their second power play goal in as many chances.

Couturier put Philadelphia ahead 4-3 redirecting in a shot from the point by Downie.

Hartnell ended the onslaught before the halfway point of the third period with a top shelf goal that made the Flyers 3-for-3 with the man advantage.

“I think the specialty teams was a battle we lost,” Niklas Kronwall said. “I thought 5-on-5 we were pretty solid defensively, but we didn’t generate much offense. We were 1-for-6 on the power play and our PK that was working was not good at all tonight.

“A new game is a new game,” Kronwall continued. “You have to stick with it and keep working to get to the next level all the time. We didn’t do enough good things tonight to win the game and it starts with specialty teams. We need to do a way better job on the power play. We had a lot of power plays in the second and we could not take advantage of it and they found a way on their PP to take advantage of their opportunities. We just have to find a way to get better.”

The Wings worked a nice set play at center ice that led to the goal from Franzen.

Gustav Nyquist took a feed out of the Wings’ zone at center ice, waited before dropping it to Stephen Weiss, who in turn found a streaking Franzen at the blue line and he rifled a slap shot by Mason.

Tatar picked up his second goal of the game on a 5-on-3 power play to put the Wings up 3-1. The winger corralled a loose puck after Mikael Samuelsson had two whacks at it down low, dragged it back before finding an open lane to shoot through and beat a sparling Mason.

Read took advantage of Detroit’s inability to clear the zone and slid a puck just under Howard’s left pad and over the goal line late in the second to get the Flyers back to within a goal.

The Wings had a great chance to blow the game wide open in the second period with nearly eight minutes of power play time, but could only manage just one goal, which came on the 5-on-3.

Great work by Joakim Andersson on the boards down low to keep the puck moving so Drew Miller could scoop it up and feed to a wide open Tatar, who one-timed his shot past Mason just past the midway point of the opening period.

Downie tied things up with a power play goal less than four minutes later for the Flyers, using a wise screen by Brayden Schenn to beat Howard with a wrist shot along the ice after taking a pass in the slot from Sean Couturier.

Wings’ power play finally comes to life in 5-2 win over Flyers

DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings power play finally came to life Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena.

Coming in without a goal on 10 chances with the man advantage to begin the season, the Wings scored three times on the power play as they skated past the Philadelphia Flyers, 5-2.

“I think that was the key to the game,” said Jimmy Howard, who made 32 saves in his fifth straight start to begin the season. “If we don’t convert on the power play like we did we probably don’t win the game. It was great to see that starting to click for us.”

Todd Bertuzzi, Niklas Kronwall and Pavel Datsyuk each scored on the power play, while Henrik Zetterberg added two third period goals, one in an empty net.

Erik Gustafsson and Tye McGinn scored for the Flyers, while Ray Emery made 25 saves.

“We’ve had some good puck movement on the power play before during games, but haven’t been able to capitalize on it,” Howard said. “Tonight we were able to find the back of the net and that was huge for us.”

Detroit is now 18-1-2 in the last 21 games against Philadelphia at Joe Louis Arena, including the 1997 Cup finals.

Daniel Alfredsson also added three assists on the power play.

“That’s something we’ve been trying to work on here ever since the start of the season,” said Kronwall, who added two helpers on the power play. “There’s no panic in here. We know that we have some good people here and if we stick to the system and continue to believe in what we’re doing it’ll be a matter of time before it happens. Tonight we were able to get a few. We’ve had some decent looks last two games. We shot the puck, got it back and that way we were able to create some chances and we were able to score.”

Detroit was the last team in the league to connect on the power play this season.

Bertuzzi, who was added to the top line to skate with Zetterberg and Datsyuk, was credited by many of his teammates for his net-front presence that led to two of the Wings’ power play goals and another from Zetterberg.

“On Pav’s backhander and on my goal, I don’t think it was the heaviest shot, but the goalie didn’t see anything and Bert was in front,” Zetterberg said. “It’s good to see.”

“Bert I thought was all over the place,” Kronwall said. “He provided some great screens for us and that got us at least two of the goals. He was all over the ice, skating really hard and strong on the puck, creating chances and making them take penalties.”

Bertuzzi took advantage of the extra room behind the nets, picking up a loose puck and used a simple wraparound, chipping in just inside of Emery’s right pad to put the Wings up early in the first period.

“Bert just got it done on his own, I think it loosened the guys up and after that we were able to move the puck and get pucks back,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “So that was a real positive thing for us. You need your scorers to score to win games. But they got to get their confidence and in order to do that you got to score a little bit so this should be a good thing for us.”

Kronwall doubled the Wings’ lead with their second power play goal of the game.

After some nice puck movement, Alfredsson spotted Kronwall sneaking in from the point and using a screen provided by Bertuzzi he snapped a wrist shot top shelf.

The celebration didn’t last long as the Flyers cut their deficit in half 34 seconds later on a goal from Gustafsson.

More good puck movement led to Detroit’s third power play goal. It all started with passes on the blue line from Alfredsson to Kronwall, who spotted Datsyuk open in the slot and he buried a wicked wrist shot past Emery. Bertuzzi aided with another screen on the Flyers netminder.

“The big thing with Bert, as long as he gets to the net and he takes care of the puck then things will work out real good for him,” Babcock said. “I liked our lines. They hardly played their fourth line so I hardly played mine but I thought those guys were fine, too.”

McGinn got the Flyers’ deficit to one just over two minutes later, but Zetterberg potted his two goals to seal the win and snap the Wings’ two-game losing streak.