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Better Know Thy Enemy: Forward Preview

With Game One just around the corner, it's time to study up and see what the Red Wings have in store up front. Hint: Datsyuk and Zetterberg are still good.

These guys again.
These guys again.

The seventh seed Detroit Red Wings have not finished this low in the standings since they played in the Clarence Campbell Conference, and that right there tells us that they have not been as dominant as they usually are. They scored 124 goals this year, good for an unimpressive 22nd overall. Their 115 goals against is sixth best in the league. But that doesn't necessarily mean their defensemen are better than their forwards. What it does mean is that all of their players did a better collective job of playing defense than playing offense. As we know, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg can be very effective when the other team has the puck, and that's something to keep an eye on.

Line Combinations (Point Totals)

Henrik Zetterberg (48) — Pavel Datsyuk (49) — Justin Abdelkader (13)

Johan Franzen (31) — Valtteri Filppula (17) — Daniel Cleary (15)

Gustav Nyquist (6) — Joakim Andersson (8) — Damien Brunner (26)

Patrick Eaves (8) — Cory Emmerton (8) — Jordin Tootoo (8)

These are the general line combos that Mike Babcock has been using recently. They are, of course, subject to change.


Todd Bertuzzi (back) and Mikael Samuelsson (chest), both right wings, have combined for eleven games played this season, but they are both on the mend and are likely to return next week. Drew Miller (hand) probably won't see any action this spring unless the Red Wings make a long playoff run, and Darren Helm (back) almost certainly won't be available no matter how far the Wings go.

How did their season go?

Datsyuk and Zetterberg finished the year averaging a hair over a point per game, but they came on strong in the final week to do it. Datsyuk had seven points in the team's last four games and Zetterberg had ten. They have each hit brief dry patches throughout the season, but they are hitting their respective strides at the right time.

Detroit's third leading scorer, Johan Franzen, is having another good year. Like Datsyuk and Zetterberg, Franzen brings more to the table than just the points he puts up. Damien Brunner, the 27 year-old NHL newcomer from Switzerland, has plenty of offensive talent and has looked dangerous at times this season, but he has yet to develop into a consistent scoring threat. Valtteri Filppula, who scored 66 points in 81 games last year, has seen a significant drop in production to a mere 17 points in 41 games this season. Dan Cleary and Justin Abdelkader have not been spectacular either. Detroit's injury situation has forced their depth players into bigger roles, and as a result they are not able to roll out multiple dangerous lines in succession as they once could.

Player Stats versus Ducks

Name GP G A P +/-
Abdelkader 3 3 1 4 3
Datsyuk 2 1 2 3 4
Franzen 2 1 2 3 4
Tatar 1 1 1 2 0
Brunner 2 0 2 2 -4
Andersson 3 1 1 2 0
Miller 3 1 0 1 0
Cleary 3 1 0 1 -4
Emmerton 3 0 1 1 -1
Zetterberg 3 0 1 1 -3
Tootoo 2 0 0 0 -2
Eaves 3 0 0 0 1
Nyquist 3 0 0 0 0
Filppula 3 0 0 0 -1

Top Three Threats to Ducks

1. If Datsyuk and Zetterberg stay hot, they will victimize the Ducks with crisp passing and deceptive puckhandling while minimizing the Ducks' offensive chances. They cannot outmuscle Getzlaf for the puck, but if they are on their game and he is not, they can outmaneuver him.

2. Johan Franzen. More than anything else, Franzen is known around the league for his ability to raise his game for the postseason. Over the course of his career, he has averaged .596 points per game in the regular season, and .830 in the playoffs. This is a guy that has burned the Ducks in the past, and with four points in two games against them this year, he has to be feeling good about this matchup.

3. Jordin Tootoo. If you haven't been following the Ducks for very long, you might be scratching your head right now. But history tells us that even when Tootoo doesn't score, he can swing the game against the Ducks by drawing penalties. Anyone remember the 2011 playoffs? Sometimes he dives, but sometimes he simply goads the Ducks into taking bad penalties. Either way, Tootoo is a guy who can put his team on the powerplay. If the Ducks aren't careful, he could have a big impact on this series.

Top Three Ways to Beat the Red Wings' Forwards

1. Aggressive, physical play against Datsyuk and Zetterberg. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Bobby Ryan are absolutely capable of manhandling any of Detroit's forwards. If they are physical in all three zones of the ice, they can have success against anyone in the league, including these guys. But if they try to go for the puck instead of the body, a guy like Datsyuk is going to make them look silly.

2. Win faceoffs. This is always important, but never more so than when playing the puck-possession Red Wings. If Detroit's top players can start their shifts with the puck, the Ducks are going to have a tough time playing with it themselves. Getzlaf, Nick Bonino, Saku Koivu, and David Steckel have to be on their game in this department.

3. Stay disciplined, stay out of the box. The aforementioned Tootoo will make this difficult, and the fact that Franzen will get away with twelve cross checks and seventeen slashes per shift will only add to the frustration. But the biggest favor the Ducks can offer to the Red Wings' forwards is the opportunity to play a man up.