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Three Questions: Wings-Capitals's Michael Caples analyzes the Wings' 49th game

Saturday, 01.31.2009 / 3:24 PM ET / News
By Michael Caples  - Detroit Red Wings Staff Writer
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Three Questions: Wings-Capitals
Who was the star of the afternoon?

Ville Leino made his NHL debut Saturday afternoon, and he scored the game’s best goal in the first period.  Leino, who signed with the Wings last spring, skated with Marian Hossa and Pavel Datsyuk, and he had no problems fitting in with his superstar linemates.  With just under two minutes remaining in the opening period, Leino grabbed a bounce pass from Datsyuk, and raced to the Washington goal.  The 25-year-old was cut off in his drive to the cage, so he pulled a quick toe drag, and ended up spinning around so his back was facing goaltender Jose Theodore.  It didn’t stop Leino from scoring however; the former Finnish Elite League star scored on a backhand wraparound shot, beating Theodore low with a surprising shot.

Leino looked like an NHL regular throughout the contest.  He skated for 12:20 on 16 shifts, and picked up two hits to accompany his one-for-one shooting percentage.  Leino controlled the puck along the boards well, and his puckhandling and passing skills allowed him to excel with Datsyuk and Hossa.  His performance shouldn’t be a surprise; coach Mike Babcock said that Leino was the best player he had ever had to send down to the minors at the beginning of the season.

How did Justin Abdelkader look?

Former MSU Spartan Justin Abdelkader got his first chance with the Red Wings today as well.  Abdelkader, who was called up yesterday when the Red Wings reassigned Aaron Downey, centered the third line with Jiri Hudler and Dan Cleary.  Abdelkader was able to display his speed and grit throughout the contest.  He skated for 9:25, and he picked up two hits, two shots, and won both face-offs he took.  Abdelkader, along with Leino, is not far off from finding a permanent home on an NHL roster. 

What went wrong?

Leino and Abdelkader were able to get into the line-up because the Wings are banged up.  Henrik Zetterberg missed his second straight game, and Tomas Holmstrom missed the trip to Washington.  Hudler was questionable for the game, after his foot was so swollen that he couldn’t practice yesterday, but he made it into the line-up for today’s game.  Needless to say, the Red Wings are having trouble adjusting to looking at a different roster every game.  Once healthy, the Wings will be able to find more consistency between their lines, and they will be a very difficult team to stop.


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