WINGS CORNERZetterberg, Datsyuk lethal together or apart
December 6, 2007
BY HELENE ST. JAMES
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
The way the Red Wings see it, opponents are free to pick their poison. They can attempt to defuse Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk as a package deal, or they can deal with them on separate lines. Either way, the Wings usually win.
The two, who typically have played together with Tomas Holmstrom since the second game of the season, are enjoying a little time apart these days. They were on separate lines during Wednesday's practice, just like in Tuesday's 4-1 victory over Montreal. They centered separate lines after starting the game together.
Coach Mike Babcock split up the two to thwart the Canadiens' attempt to match the line against Saku Koivu, which freed up Alex Kovalev. Datsyuk responded with two goals and an assist, Zetterberg with a goal and an assist.
"That's huge for us," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said Wednesday. "They can carry one line each. Like yesterday, what's their team going to do when you split them up? All of a sudden you have two lines going instead of one super line. It makes it a lot tougher on other teams."
At the start of the season, the plan was to have Zetterberg (18 goals, 19 assists) and Datsyuk (11 goals, 20 assists) on different lines, but that plan dissipated when Johan Franzen got hurt in the second game. The two were united and became the hottest line in the NHL in October and much of November. But as they showed Tuesday, Zetterberg's line with Franzen and Mikael Samuelsson and Datsyuk's with Tomas Holmstrom and Valtteri Filppula work well, too.
"We have fun when we play with each other and we play on the power play with each other, so that's a big part of the game," Zetterberg said. "We see each other enough, and it's fun to play with (Samuelsson) and (Franzen) once in a while."
Separate or apart, the two are lethal.
"They've won a lot of games for us," goaltender Chris Osgood said. "Last night, they dominated the game, those two guys -- they're the reason we won the game. They get to scoring areas whenever they want to, at will, and their shots are great and they're capable of creating offense that a lot of other guys aren't capable of doing in the league. They're guys we rely on. We hope not to rely on them every night, because that would be unfair to them ... but, they are our horses, no doubt."
NOTEBOOK: Babcock said Dominik Hasek, who started Tuesday, would start Friday against Minnesota. Osgood (13-1-1, 1.79 goals-against average, .924 save percentage) has numbers that merit consideration for his participation in the Jan. 27 All-Star Game -- not that he is paying attention to online voting.
"I barely know how to use my computer," he said. "My daughters are on it more than I am. ... If I do get chosen to go, I'll go, and it'll be pretty cool to have a chance to go at this stage in my career -- that's how I look at it." ...
Dan Cleary walked on a tender left ankle after taking a shot on the bone, courtesy of Samuelsson. "It's all right," Cleary said. "I'll give him a lot of flak for it." ...
Kirk Maltby (back) didn't practice; he's doubtful for Friday.
Contact HELENE ST. JAMES at 313-222-2295 or email@example.com
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