DETROIT – Joakim Andersson will make his 2014 Stanley Cup playoff debut tonight when he replaces veteran forward Daniel Alfredsson in the Red Wings’ Game 3 lineup against the Boston Bruins at Joe Louis Arena.
“Alfie needed another day, so Andersson can really help our penalty kill,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s a good faceoff guy, he’s a big body, he knows how to play.”
It’s expected that Andersson will begin the game skating on the Wings’ third line with center Darren Helm and rookie forward Tomas Jurco. However, Babcock said he may move David Legwand up to the third line and place Andersson on the fourth line with center Luke Glendening and veteran Drew Miller.
“We’ll just see how it goes,” Babcock said Tuesday morning.
Babcock did not disclose the nature of Alfredsson’s injury though he has been plagued throughout most of the regular season with lower back pain. Alfredsson, who played in the both games of the series in Boston, has played in 123 career playoff games, tied with Henrik Zetterberg for 12th most among active NHL players.
The 25-year-old Andersson picked up valuable playoff experience last spring, playing in all 14 of the Wings’ postseason games as well as 10 games in the AHL playoffs where he produced three goals and eight points in helping the Wings’ minor-league affiliate to the Calder Cup championship.
“I played in those 14 playoff games here last year so it was a good experience obviously,” said Andersson, who collected eight goals and 17 points in 65 games during the regular season. “The playoffs are a new season, it’s more physical, they start going even harder at it because it’s the Stanley Cup.”
Andersson, who suffered a fractured ankle while blocking a shot against the New York Rangers (March 9), struggled in the last month of the season. Following the injury he played in just seven more games, and down the stretch, was a healthy scratch in five of the final six games.
But now that the ankle is completely healed, Andersson said he’s ready to return tonight.
“Just play my game,” he said, “Be smart in all three zones and get some pucks to the net, be good on the penalty kill, be good in the lanes and be in front of the net when the puck gets there.”
Though he’ll likely play on the wing, Andersson can be a big factor in helping the Red Wings gain puck possession. He finished second on the team with 345 face-off wins during the regular season.
“He’s a great two-way player, obviously, I don’t know if he’ll be used at wing or center,” Gustav Nyquist said. “But he’s a great face-off guy as well, strong on the puck, a big guy, who can hit people. It’ll be fun to see him in tonight.”
PP ENTRIES: The Red Wings need to get their power play in gear, but Babcock said they need to successful cross the blue line first. Through the first two games of the series, Boston’s penalty kill has held the Red Wings’ power play scoreless on six chances.
“You shouldn’t give up easy access to your blue line and then when you put it in you should be all over them,” Babcock said. “That’s what they did. You can solve the problem, just win the faceoff, get shooting and get it back. That would be the first thing. The second thing is we got to have a better plan and execution on our power play. We’ve gone through it at nauseam. The biggest thing is we got to execute.”
Red Wings’ power-play units have won 5-of-12 face-offs in the series.
GAINING CONFIDENCE: Babcock has gained enough trust in Luke Glendening during his rookie season that the Wings’ coach isn’t afraid to play the Grand Rapids native against the Bruins top two centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci.
“Just ulra-competitive, skater, heavy,” Babcock said. “He used to be a football player, loves the contact, loves being a greaseball. Plays hard. Draws other guys into battles, has great hockey sense. Very competitive.”
Glendening scored the Red Wings’ lone goal in Sunday’s 4-1 loss at TD Garden.
CRAZY EIGHTS: Not sure if it’s a record, but the state of Michigan certainly is well-represented in the Red Wings first-round playoff series against the Bruins. Eight players – five Red Wings and three Bruins – were either born or raised in Michigan.
“There’s a couple of guys that I played with at Michigan State, and there’s a lot of guys that have played in the state of Michigan,” Wings forward Justin Abdelkader said. “It’s pretty special. Anytime you get that opportunity, I think everyone’s excited about it. I think all the guys from Michigan always looked forward to playing here in Detroit.”
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