Hockey Night In Canada Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011

Babcock, McLellan to match wits in Game 3

Categories: Detroit Red Wings, SJS vs. DET, San Jose Sharks

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San Jose forward Patrick Marleau could be a key player in the strategizing between Sharks coach Todd McLellan and Detroit bench boss Mike Babcock. (Jeff Chiu/Associated Press) San Jose forward Patrick Marleau could be a key player in the strategizing between Sharks coach Todd McLellan and Detroit bench boss Mike Babcock. (Jeff Chiu/Associated Press)

Detroit coach Mike Babcock announced both his line and roster changes for Game 3, and then went to the customer-friendly length of announcing Todd McLellan's as well.

After covering the insertion of Kris Draper on the fourth line and the separation of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, Babcock said, "And he'll counter with moving Logan Couture onto [Joe] Thornton's line and putting [Patrick] Marleau in the middle."

To which San Jose coach McLellan smiled when asked to confirm the changes announces on behalf and said,  "Maybe."

"If I did that," he said, playing the speculator's game for a moment, "it's just size and strength down the middle. Datsyuk and Zetterberg are obviously skilled, but they're also very strong. Marleau is six-foot-three, 230, 225, in there, not that Logan Couture couldn't do the job, because he has."

But McLellan has not changed the personnel or order of any of his top three lines since the last game of the regular season, when Benn Ferriero, now on the fourth line to Scott Nichol's right, played with Joe Pavelski and Kyle Wellwood, so his adjustment to Babcock's moves may not necessarily come at the beginning of the game, but soon thereafter, especially if the Sharks get off to its usual sluggardly start.

San Jose tied for the league lead in second period goals in the regular season and is there now in the postseason as well, but the Sharks have only two first period goals, by Dany Heatley 28 seconds into Game 1 of the Kings series, and Ian White 4:54 into Game 2 of the Red Wings series. That's 144:26 between first period goals for a team that won its first round series and had command if not a full-on stranglehold of its second rounder as well.

Whether they are better when their forwards have the short change or because McLellan loses shoes in their backsides after lackluster first periods is open to interpretation, but they have done what they have done with the same nine every game.

There may be a change in Game 3 on the fourth line, where Ben Eager has struggled with adrenalin (read: mischief), but there was no firm indication that McLellan has done anything in that department.

SAN JOSE

Logan Couture-Joe Thornton-Devin Setoguchi
Ryane Clowe-Patrick Marleau-Dany Heatley
Torrey Mitchell-Joe Pavelski-Kyle Wellwood
Jamal Mayers-Scott Nichol-Benn Ferriero

Douglas Murray-Dan Boyle
Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Jason Demers
Ian White-Niclas Wallin

Antti Niemi
Antero Niittymaki

RED WINGS

Draper will come in for Drew Miller and skate on the left wing with Darren Helm at centre and Patrick Eaves on the right side.

Draper, a healthy scratch for Games 1 and 2, had informed the media after Tuesday's practice that he'd be a go for Game 3, but Babcock refused to acknowledge the change until after Wednesday's morning skate.

"He didn't confirm that?" Draper said, feigning astonishment. "I'm going. I'll confirm it.

"I'm planning that during the anthem, I'll be standing out there tonight. I'm looking forward to it."

The Wings other lines will be Johan Franzen-Pavel Datsyuk-Tomas Holmstrom; Todd Bertuzzi-Henrik Zetterberg-Dan Cleary; Justin Abdelkader-Valtteri Filppula-Jiri Hudler.

Splitting up

Babcock opted to put Zetterberg and Datsyuk on opposite lines after skating his two best offensive talents together in San Jose, and his reasoning was simple.

"We didn't win with them together," Babcock said."Pavel's been the most dangerous forward in the series, but I also think we need more from more forwards than we're getting."

On the wing

Abdelkader moves to left wing after working at centre for the first six games of the playoffs.

"I don't think it's hard at all," Abdelkader said of the change. "I've played wing a lot this year and maybe it'll open up some things for me and I'll be able to be there on the forecheck more."

Abdelkader also planned to watch his stick work after being assessed two high-sticking penalties in San Jose.

"A couple of plays that shouldn't happen, so I've got to keep my stick on the ice," he said

Franzen ailing

Franzen's injured left ankle is clearly bothering him. He hasn't been going to the net and making things happen like he normally does.

"That could be," Babcock admitted. "I don't know that for sure. He's had a day off and he took minimal reps in practice, just to kind of get his hands going, didn't test it [the ankle] at all.

"He's got to test it today. When he got mad in the third period the other night, it wasn't as sore. So maybe he should get mad right at the start tonight."

Same time, same place

The Wings came home down 2-0 to the Sharks in the second round of the 2010 playoffs, but were leading 3-1 in the third period of Game 3. Then San Jose's Thornton and Couture scored to send the game to overtime, and Marleau won it for the Sharks at 7:07 of the first extra period.

"You've got to have the killer instinct in the game," Detroit defenceman Brad Stuart said, remembering that outcome. "That was pretty tough to overcome.

"If you've got the team where you want them, make sure you take care of it."

Confident Sharks

The Wings are used to carrying themselves with a swagger, putting the other team on the defensive, but that hasn't happened against San Jose. Including regular-season play, the Sharks are 10-2 in their last 12 games against the Red Wings.

T"he body of work is they beat us four games to one last year and they're up 2-0 this year," Babcock said. "By my math, that's 6-1.

"There's no question what the body of work describes. They've been better than us. If we want to keep playing, we've got to be better than them."

Wings forward Cleary thought they could continue to build on its third period in Game 2, and felt his team was getting better as the series progressed.

"They played very well and we didn't play that well," Cleary said of the first two games. "We believe in ourselves, we've got talented players and we've got a good team, so we've just got to go out and do it. We've got to win one game."

Stuart admitted that San Jose's run of success against the Wings should be cause for concern.

"They have played well against us, no doubt," he said. "They seem to get up for us. They've won 10 games against us in the last two years, and that's probably not good for us.

"We need to use that as maybe a bit of a wake-up call for ourselves to get better. Enough's enough. The time is now. You don't want to go down 3-0."