Zetterberg’s slump spurs line change

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Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — Henrik Zetterberg didn’t pull any punches.

When asked what he felt about his season overall, he said, “It hasn’t been fantastic, that’s for sure. It’s something I am not happy about, but you can’t look back. I just have to keep going, work hard and do things right.”

There are many NHL players who would happily take Zetterberg’s numbers this season — 18 goals and 53 points in 58 games. But for Zetterberg — who has four straight 30-plus goal seasons — they are well below his standard.

“After getting back from the shoulder injury, it’s been better,” Zetterberg said. “After the Olympic break I felt good. I just have to get more points on the board to help the team win. I don’t really count chances, but I’ve had enough to where I should be able to score some goals.”

In an effort to kick-start not only Zetterberg and the second scoring line, but the entire team, coach Mike Babcock has moved Valtteri Filppula up with Zetterberg and Danny Cleary. Drew Miller will center the third line between Todd Bertuzzi and Jason Williams.

“No matter what profession you are in, the one thing you have to be proud of every day is putting in a good effort and being able to walk away from the rink feeling good about yourself,” Babcock said, explaining the move. “And I don’t think you can do that as a team against Calgary and I don’t think you could do that against Vancouver (a 6-3 loss last week).

“To me, that’s too often in a short period of time. So the coach isn’t doing a good enough job and neither are the players. We will give them a different look and see if we can’t make something else go.”

The immediate goal is to invigorate Zetterberg, who has six goals and seven assists, with a minus-2 rating in the last 12 games. He only got off two shots against Calgary.

“We need him to be better,” Babcock said. “That doesn’t mean he has to carry the weight of the world around on his back. Just dig in and find a way to be better, to be harder. Hopefully as a coach I am putting him with players he needs to help him out.”

Moving Filppula to wing gives the second line more speed and should create space and plays for Zetterberg.

“All three are real good players,” Babcock said. “We are hoping to follow Pav’s (Datsyuk’s) line with another line that has the potential to dominate and maybe that will tilt it for us.”

More ice time

A secondary benefit of switching Filppula to the wing is that it could open up more playing time for Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Filppula. All three could take extra shifts centering the third line.

“What we often do there is overplay the other centers, rotate them in on that third line once in a while,” Babcock said. “All three of those guys played 18 minutes (against Calgary), which is good. But they can probably play another minute or minute and a half. I can put them on the other line and spread it out more.”

Ozzie ready?

Babcock said Jimmy Howard would start in goal against the Wild, but Chris Osgood is going to get a start fairly soon.

Tape to tape

Brett Lebda will return to the third defense pairing today, replacing Jonathan Ericsson.

Last Updated: March 11. 2010 1:57AM