Wings in search of effective lines
November 5, 2002
BY HELENE ST. JAMES
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
The Red Wings are playing an almost daily game of What's My Line?
In the past two games, Sergei Fedorov has centered Brendan Shanahan and Brett Hull, and Henrik Zetterberg and Hull. Monday, Fedorov practiced with Shanahan and Kris Draper, reforming a line that was together last season.
As the Wings attempt to work their way out of a two-game winless streak tonight at home against Chicago, it's possible Shanahan-Fedorov-Draper is one of the lines that will be used. Another successful line from last year, the Two Kids and a Goat line of Pavel Datsyuk between Boyd Devereaux and Hull, also practiced together.
It was in stark contrast to the previous night. Shanahan started Sunday's 3-3 tie with Dallas with Draper and Kirk Maltby, while another prolific scorer, Luc Robitaille, played on a similarly defensive line with Sean Avery and Darren McCarty. The line changes were the most drastic of the season, and were prompted in large part by Saturday's 5-2 loss at Ottawa. The Wings have surrendered eight goals in the past two games, and have dropped out of the NHL's top 15 in goals-against average at 2.71.
"Coaches have given us chance to keep lines together, but we have to realize at some point if we're not going to get the job done, there are going to be changes," Fedorov said. "I don't know who is going to win, who is going to lose, but I know one thing -- as a group of players, it's easier to play together when you play with the same guys over and over again. It's not easy to play when you're always changing your linemates."
The Wings have incorporated some new faces into their lineup, and injuries are another reason behind the changes. Head coach Dave Lewis is mostly looking for continuity.
"What I'd like to see is four lines that can create chances and maybe score some more 5-on-5 goals, and that I feel comfortable with playing against the opponent's best lines, or their fourth line," he said.
Lewis is toying with the idea of playing Zetterberg, a talented rookie adept at all three positions, at center. Until Sunday's experiment at left wing, Zetterberg had played all his games at right wing. He practiced between Tomas Holmstrom and Robitaille. The other line was Igor Larionov between Maltby and Jason Williams.
NOTEBOOK: Holmstrom joined his teammates for the first time since suffering a bruised sternum Oct. 26 at Nashville. "I felt really good," he said. Depending on how sore he is today, he might rejoin the lineup -- which would be a welcome change. "It was a long week," he said. "I played around with my son, that was the good thing." . . . The Wings have scored 50 percent of their 42 goals on special teams -- 15 on power plays and six shorthanded. . . . McCarty (flu) did not practice.