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Patience is paying off for Hudler

Time on the power play helps Wings' second-year center gain confidence

Wednesday, 05.7.2008 / 3:08 PM ET / News
By Lindsey Ungar  - DetroitRedWings.com Special Writer
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Patience is paying off for Hudler
Hudler celebrates his Game 3 power-play goal that gave the Red Wings a 2-0 lead against Nashville in the Western Conference quarterfinal.
DETROIT — On the ice, Jiri Hudler hangs out in the corners, patiently waiting to find his teammates in the perfect scoring spot.

On the scoresheet? Hudler’s nine points are sandwiched between the totals of center Pavel Datsyuk and leading-scoring defenseman Niklas Kronwall, which is good enough for fourth-place on the Red Wings, who are set to open their Western Conference finals series against Dallas on Thursday.

“I don’t know how he does it,” linemate Mark Hartigan said. “Watching it, it’s pretty neat to see.”

But Datsyuk and Kronwall average over 20 minutes a game. Hudler? He’s a fourth-liner, just cracking the 11 minute mark each playoff night.

A season ago, Hudler played just six of Detroit’s 18 playoff games. Now, in his second full season, he earns his keep on the power play working with Dan Cleary and Johan Franzen, the top goal scorer in the NHL playoffs.

But at 5-foot-10 and 182-pounds, Hudler won’t be asked to bull over anyone in the offensive zone like Franzen. Hudler uses his hockey smarts instead.

“He doesn’t over-think anything, overdo anything,” Hartigan said. “He knows what he’s doing in his head. He knows what he wants to do. And most of the time he delivers.”

Especially in the playoffs.

Hudler has seven playoff assists, which is ranked second-most on the team. He’s also one of Franzen’s main set-up men, assisting on four of Franzen’s 11 goals.

Hudler said he’s thankful for the way Franzen’s playing. But with more and more attention being paid to Franzen, does that create more chances for Hudler?

“All of us got to be the piece in the puzzle,” Hudler said. “Be a good team.”

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock seconded that sentiment.

“We're looking for everyone to score,” Babcock said of Hudler. “You don't just go out there to kill the clock.  The reason these teams (Dallas and Detroit) are here is because there are a number of people.”

INJURY UPDATE: After not skating the past two days, Valterri Filppula (leg) was back on the ice, but came off early before the Red Wings worked on the power plays and penalty kills.

His status for Game 1 is still uncertain.

“This is the first time he's skated and he responded really well,” Babcock said. “We didn't push it, so we'll see tomorrow.”

Filppula re-aggrevated a leg injury in the third period of Game 4 against Colorado. He missed practice time, but no games, in early March due to the injury.

If Filppula cannot go Thursday, it could mean the return of Kirk Maltby, who has yet to play this postseason.

MULE BREAKING OUT: Hakan Andersson, director of European scouting, was the man responsible for finding the “Mule.”

But before Franzen was drafted -- 97th overall in 2004  -- general manager Ken Holland never saw the now team-leading playoff scorer play.

“I remember seeing him during the work stoppage play a couple of games in the Swedish Elite League,” Holland said. “My first initial reaction was there was more there offensively than what he showed.”

Franzen was playing more of a defensive role at the time with the Swedish team, and earned a regular spot on the Red Wings this season playing more of a checking role.

“We really thought this was going to be a breakout year,” Holland said, referring to Franzen scoring five preseason goals in six games this season. But he suffered a knee injury in the second game of the season, which caused him to miss 10 games. Once healthy again he struggled to find a permanent role in the lineup.

As team injuries piled up in February, Franzen got more ice time — especially on the power play unit, where he took over Tomas Holmstrom’s coveted spot atop the opponent’s crease. Franzen bulleted to the top of the Red Wings’ attack with 20 points in the last 16 games of the regular-season.

Franzen’s late-season success has carried over to the playoffs, where he has 14 points in 10 games, including a pair of hat tricks in Games 2 and 4 against Colorado.

“As it turned out, obviously, it has been his breakout year,” Holland said. “We thought it was going to start in October, but his breakout year really started in March.”



SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
H. Zetterberg 82 13 37 -15 50
P. Datsyuk 66 16 33 7 49
D. Larkin 80 23 22 11 45
T. Tatar 81 21 24 4 45
G. Nyquist 82 17 26 -2 43
J. Abdelkader 82 19 23 -16 42
M. Green 74 7 28 -6 35
B. Richards 68 10 18 4 28
D. Helm 77 13 13 -2 26
N. Kronwall 64 3 23 -21 26
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80