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Slightly belated Red Wings-Lightning game-day updates: Wings platooning offense vs. streaking Bolts

Updated 4x with video at 3:53 PM: As Paul noted, the Red Wings find themselves particularly shorthanded ahead of tonight's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning (7 PM, FSD/SUN/97.1 FM), with no Stephen Weiss (groin, out 7-10 days), no Johan Franzen (????) and having swapped out Xavier Ouellet and Adam Almquist ahead of tonight's battle with Valtteri Filppula's 11-4-and-0 Lightning.

The Wings come into tonight's game having laid quite the pair of eggs in losses to Winnipeg on Tuesday and Dallas on Thursday, while the Lightning's 4-2 win over Edmonton on Thurdsay was their 3rd straight and 6th over the course of their past 7 games.

While one could very well argue that Weiss having to not play for a couple of games might allow him to watch the game from a different perspective and shake his scoring funk, and regardless of what's ailing Johan Franzen, we all wish him well...

Wings coach Mike Babcock's understandable decision to keep his one scoring line together has the Wings "platooning" lines 2-4, and that means a player who was "sucking wind" at the end of Tuesday night's game in Darren Helm's received a helluva promotion, as the Windsor Star's Bob Duff notes:

Don’t change a thing. According to Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, that’s the key for Darren Helm as he debuts Saturday at Joe Louis Arena against the Tampa Bay Lightning as a second-line centre for the team, the first time during his Detroit career that Helm has skated among the club’s top-six forwards.

“Just do what you do,” was Babcock’s advice to Helm. “Don’t do anything different. Provide speed, let those other guys make the plays and be at the net for them and play well without the puck. Just do what you normally do.”

Helm, who is filling in for the injured Stephen Weiss (groin), considers them to be words of wisdom.

“I’m not really going to focus on trying to play a like a second-line centre,” Helm said. “I’ll just play the way I do.”

Regardless, Helm, who will skate between Daniel Alfredsson and Tomas Tatar, is excited for the chance to play among the high-end talent instead of his usual checking role.

“It’s a great opportunity, a huge challenge,” Helm said. “It’s a different opportunity for sure. I’ve never played on top two lines in Detroit, except for a couple shifts here and there, maybe. I haven’t played a full game in the top (six). I don’t know how it’s going to pan out.”

Babcock's a little wary of doing what he's doing--to the point that the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness notes that Babcock chose to go back upon his word, which is quite rare:

At practice Friday, Babcock said there was no chance Helm, who’ll be playing in just his fourth game of the year, would center the second line mainly because of all the time he had missed over the last two seasons.

...

Babcock is trying to find two other skaters to play alongside Alfredsson, who’s third on the team in scoring with three goals and 10 assists. Franzen, Weiss and Daniel Cleary have combined to score five goals through 17 games.

“We had to do something,” Babcock said of his second line. “And let’s face it, that line hasn’t been any good anyways, so it was time for a change.”

Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Bertuzzi have 20 goals between them.

Entering training camp, the plan was for Weiss to center Alfredsson and Franzen. However, injuries at camp didn’t allow that line to form any chemistry.

“I’ll just watch (Helm),” Babcock said. “The first game he was good. He played very few minutes, 30 second shifts. The second game in Winnipeg, he fit right in with the rest of us, because he was no good. Last game, he started on the fourth line and I ended up playing him on the third because I thought he was playing better.”

As for the platooning, the Detroit Free Press's George Sipple reports that the following line combinations will hold serve for the opening faceoff...

Wings coach Mike Babcock said Darren Helm would start out centering a line with Daniel Alfredsson and Tomas Tatar against the Lightning. Helm, just back from a long layoff, isn’t ready yet to play 18 minutes a game, though.

“Whoever is playing best can be the second line,” Babcock said.

Joakim Andersson will start out with Justin Abdelkader and Drew Miller. Luke Glendening will be with Dan Cleary and Patrick Eaves.

Mikael Samuelsson and Jordin Tootoo are scratches and Stephen Weiss is out with a groin injury.

And Sipple added the following notes:

Steven Stamkos has 13 goals and nine assists in 15 games for the Lightning. He enters tonight’s game second in the NHL in scoring, one point behind Sidney Crosby of the Penguins.

“I’m hoping that he wore his arms out last game, he had so many clear-cut chances it was unbelievable,” Babcock said. “He could have had nine (goals.).”

Stamkos scored two goals in a 4-2 win over Edmonton on Thursday. He has a five-game goal streak and a seven-game point streak.

NOTEBOOK:: Henrik Zetterberg said about a half dozen Wings went to dinner with former teammate Valtteri Filppula on Friday night. Filppula has six goals and six assists in 15 games for the Lightning and is averaging 18:39 in ice time.

MLive's Ansar Khan posited a prospective lineup...

Here are the Red Wings lines and defense pairs for tonight:

Henrik Zetterberg-Pavel Datsyuk-Todd Bertuzzi

Tomas Tatar-Darren Helm-Daniel Alfredsson

Drew Miller-Joakim Andersson-Justin Abdelkader

Daniel Cleary-Luke Glendening-Patrick Eaves

Scratches: Mikael Samuelsson and Jordin Tootoo (healthy), Stephen Weiss (groin), Johan Franzen (upper-body, injured reserve)

Niklas Kronwall-Danny DeKeyser

Brian Lashoff-Jakub Kindl

Kyle Quincey-Xavier Ouellet

Scratches: Jonathan Ericsson and Brendan Smith (shoulder, IR)

Jimmy Howard (starting)

Jonas Gustavsson

And he noted Helm's take on not exhausting himself early:

“It’s a great opportunity, a huge challenge,’’ Helm said. “Not really going to focus on trying to play a like a second-line center, just play the way I do, with speed. Especially coming back, missing so much time, (play) really simple, short shifts, make sure I don’t get caught out there too long. I don’t need a minute-long shift, the first one will kill me for the rest of the game.’’

The Red Wings website's Game Day Blog posited a historical note...

On This Day in Red Wings' History...

On November 9, 2009: Wings' great Steve Yzerman takes his rightful place in hockey history as he's inducted in to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. Former Wings Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille are also in the Class of 2009.

As well as Ken Kal's Keys to the Game...

Need Consistent Scoring - The top line has been carrying the team; the Wings need more from the second, third, and fourth lines.

Keep Turnovers to a Minimum - The NHL is a game of turnovers. Teams will make you pay when you turn it over, so be smart with the puck and trust your teammates.

Play Tight Defensively - Tampa has a potent offense with Stamkos and St. Louis. Keep them to the outside and limit their Grade A opportunities.

A slate of morning skate updates...

Babs said Darren Helm will center the second line tonight.

Helm will center line number 2 alongside Daniel Alfredsson and Tomas Tatar.

Johan Franzen is out for tonight's game and was placed on short-term IR with an upper-body injury.

Luke Glendening will take Mule's spot in the lineup.

Xavier Ouellet will be on the blue line after Almquist was sent back to Grand Rapids.

Stephen Weiss is out tonight with a groin injury.

Jimmy Howard will get the nod in goal.

And a note about a "Hot Wing":

Not only does he have 5 points in 4 games with a +5 rating, but Todd Bertuzzi has 19 points in 24 career games against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

He's today's 'Hot Wing' by Buffalo Wild Wings.

The Windsor Star's Bob Duff posted videos of Darren Helm and Valtteri Filppula speaking with the media...

 


And the Free Press's George Sipple posted a clip of Filppula speaking with the media:

As for the Lightning, it appears that Ben Bishop will start opposite Jimmy Howard...

And you probably won't be interested in reading the Tampa Bay Times' Damian Cristodero's chat with Ryan Malone, but he offered morning skate notes not involving a player who's skating in his 600th NHL game tonight (Malone):

Other stuff from the morning skate: After the 2010-11 season, Cooper's first with AHL Norfolk, he interviewed by phone with Red Wings coach Mike Babcock for an assistant job. Cooper said he knew he wasn't really ready to be in the NHL, and he believed Babcock was just doing his homework for perhaps something in the future. But the two hit it off and have been friends ever since.

"He ended up being pretty vital for me," Cooper said. "I tapped into him the year we won the Calder Cup, just to talk to him about what his teams did, how he dealt with the media and how he dealt with different things. He was like a mentor during that time for me and was very helpful." Added Babcock:  "When we got down to it, he said, 'Well, what would you do if you were me?' I said I'd stay in the American League and be a head coach in the NHL." And that's how it worked out. "We've been in touch ever since and he's been a great help," Cooper said, "but for two and a half hours tonight, we're no longer buddies." .

What is the key to beating the Red Wings? Cooper said it is trusting one's own game plan. "They're a team that doesn't beat themselves, so you really have to trust what you're doing. We're not going to break what they're doing, they've been doing it for so long."

The Lightning has had so little success against the Red Wings, it is laughable. Tampa Bay is 5-24-1 with two ties against the Wings and is on a 0-8-2 streak. It is 1-13-0 with a tie at Detroit and is winless there in its past 11 (0-10-0 with a tie).

Paul covered Cristodero and the Tampa Tribune's Erik Erlendsson's conversations with Filppula, and if you wish to read TampaBayLightning.com's Lonnie Herman's profile of coach Cooper, who has some Michigan ties, or Missy Zieleski's Friday Bolts practice report, you may do so on your own...

But I might remind you that the Lightning have a pretty nasty set of Syracuse Crunch alums in the lineup in Ondrej Palat, Radko Gudas and Tomas Jurco's Tomas Tatar's best pal, power forward and pain-in-the-ass Richard Panik.

As of Thursday, NHL.com's Lonnie Hermann had the Lightning icing the following lineup, and I'd imagine that tonight's lineup will look very similarly:

LIGHTNING

Alex Killorn - Steven Stamkos - Martin St. Louis

Teddy Purcell - Valtteri Filppula - Ryan Malone

Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Brett Connolly

B.J. Crombeen - Nate Thompson - Richard Panik

Matthew Carle - Radko Gudas

Victor Hedman - Sami Salo

Eric Brewer - Mark Barberio

Ben Bishop

Anders Lindback

Scratched: Keith Aulie, Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Andrej Sustr,

Injured: Tom Pyatt (collarbone)

These Bolts may have skill, but if you were able to watch any of the Crunch-Griffins Calder Cup Final games, you'll know that Palat, Connolly, Panik, Gudas and Barbeiro are downright mean.

Update: For the record, the Red Wings website's game notes state that Kyle Rehman and Brad Meier will referee tonight's game, with Michel Cormier and Greg Devorski working the lines.

Update #2: Amongst the Windsor Star's Bob Duff's Tweets...

#redwings Babcock on #lightning: "They’ve got two goalies that would provide shade from the sun they’re so big."

...

#redwings Babcock on #AHL Grand Rapids: "It looks to me like our minor-league team has go to find a different league to play in right now."

...

#redwings Babcock on success of #AHL Grand Rapids: "I wish we were like that for crying out loud."

I'm not the coach, but if I was, I would've called up Jarnkrok or Sheahan...

And the Tampa Bay Tribune's Erik Erlendsson posits the following game-day update:

The history and mystique of Joe Louis Arena certainly has had the Lightning in a trance for two decades. Tampa Bay enters tonight’s game against Detroit – winner of four Stanley Cups titles since 1997 and playoff qualifiers for 22 consecutive seasons – with one victory at The Joe in franchise history. The Lightning own a 1-13-1 record all-time in Detroit, where Tampa Bay has not recorded a victory since Jan. 12, 1994. Sitting atop the Atlantic Division standings with an 11-4 record, Tampa Bay hopes this matchup between the top two teams in the division turns those fortunes around.

“For myself, I see the notes and I see the statistics, but for our staff and me personally, I wasn’t in the league for any of this,’’ Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “It’s a new staff, new players and I think guys are more excited for Val (Filppula) to put on a blue jersey tonight than they are about looking at stats from the past.’’

Since the Lightning’s inception the Red Wings had been in the Western Conference, which limited the number of visits Tampa Bay would make to Detroit each year. But under the new divisional alignment, Detroit is now in the Eastern Conference and resides in the same division with the Lightning, guaranteeing at least two trips to Joe Louis Arena per season. This year Tampa Bay will visit Detroit three times.

“The fact they are in our division now, the games take on a whole new meaning,’’ Cooper said. “This game is another, “where is our team at’ game. We consider Detroit a top five elite team in this league and we are going gauge ourselves off this game.’’

...

Filppula, who spent eight seasons with the Red Wings, had the chance to exchange plenty of hellos with former teammates prior to Tampa Bay’s morning skate.

“It’s definitely a little weird to be on this side (of the locker room) and I guess I’ll have to be focused so I don’t go to the wrong bench,’’ Filppula said.

With six goals on the season, Filppula is two short of his total from the lockout-shortened season a year ago. But with a well-rounded game and versatility to play in all situations, the 29-year-old has been a key free agent acquisition.

“I can’t say enough about his versatility and what he has brought to our team,’’ Cooper said. “I have to give a lot of credit to Steve (Yzerman) and the scouting staff because I wasn’t sure what we were getting when he came in. He was with another team and he chose to go somewhere else and for us it’s a home run. He’s been a home run.’’

Erlendsson reports that B.J. Crombeen will sit out for Tampa Bay tonight.

Update #3: The Lightning posted a clip of coach Jon Cooper's comments:

Update #4: Here's the Red Wings' Game Day Preview video:

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About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.