Fourth line sets tone for Wings in victory over Blackhawks
DETROIT — The Red Wings rely on captain Henrik Zetterberg and his Euro Twin Pavel Datsyuk for a lot, but it’s the fourth line that sets the tone.
Center Luke Glendening and wingers Drew Miller and Joakim Andersson are the one line that’s stayed together throughout the start of the season.
Often, they have to play against the other team’s top line.
"They’re our energy line, they set our work ethic standard for us every night," defenseman Danny DeKeyser said. "When they’re going, it definitely takes pressure off other guys and helps our team a lot."
On Friday night against the Chicago Blackhawks in front of a packed house, Glendening rebounded Miller’s shot for the first goal of the game at 6:08 of the first.
"It’s nice to be able to chip in that way, for sure," Glendening said. "You play hockey because you want to score goals. That hasn’t happened a lot for us but it’s nice to have a night like (Friday night) every once in awhile."
Later in the second period, Andersson got an assist when Tomas Tatar rebounded his shot past Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford for a 3-1 lead.
"Some nights they’ve been our best line for us, the way they, whether it’s shutting down the other team’s top lines or getting on the forecheck and just grinding teams," said goaltender Jimmy Howard, who had 25 saves. "(Friday night) they were rewarded for it."
There’s a reason coach Mike Babcock puts that line in tough situations.
"They’ve done a good job, they’re good penalty killers. We trust them," Babcock said. "(Friday night) they took the puck back a few times that could have cost us, which I didn’t like, we’ll get that sorted out but they’re competitive guys and they play right and they got one for us and it was good to see."
The other thing that Babcock likes about his grinders is that they are never satisfied.
Despite allowing just one goal — on the power play — to the talented Patrick Kane on a perfect pass from Jonathan Toews, it wasn’t quite good enough.
"I thought we gave up a lot to the Toews line which obviously is tough, but we got a good win," said Glendening, who was in the box for interference when Kane scored.
Miller had five shots, Glendening three and Andersson two, accounting for 10 of the Wings’ 37 shots.
"We’re 22nd in the league in shots for. I think we’re fourth in shots against," Babcock said. "So we need to shoot the puck more. Last bit of the second we didn’t attack, when you get out of attack mode and stop shooting the puck we’re in trouble, so just shoot the puck."
The Wings did that, especially in the second period, out-shooting the Blackhawks, 20-8.
The fourth line shot the puck early and often, which helped the Wings earn their first regulation win against the Blackhawks at home since Dec. 8, 2009.
"Obviously they were rested and we were rested so we expected a real good game," Babcock said. "I was concerned about the first 10 minutes but we came out and played well. I thought our D executed.
"This is the first time in four or five games we looked fast, so that was positive. It’s nice to look fast against a good opponent. Obviously they’re a skilled group and they can really play but I thought we did a real good job in the second period to tilt the rink a little bit."
The Wings improved to 8-3-5 overall and 6-1-2 at home.
NOTE: Brendan Smith was nearly a scratch before playing and scoring an empty-net goal.
"Just because they had a major soccer injury," Babcock said. "That warmup gets a little bit competitive sometimes. So we had to get Lash (Brian Lashoff) in. We should have had Lash in anyway (in warmups), it was mistake by us but he (Smith) was fine."
Smith played 26 shifts for 21:26.