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Third line is chipping in for Wings

Cleary, Helm and Miller are making contributions known

Monday, 12.19.2011 / 6:10 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - Managing Editor |
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Third line is chipping in for Wings
EDMONTON, Alberta – Counting on the usual suspects to carry the offensive load is never a bad thing for the Red Wings. But getting offensive production out of the top-six forwards while third and fourth line players are also figuring into the mix makes Detroit an even greater threat.

“It's a long season and even our best players aren't going to have unbelievable nights every night so they need scoring throughout the lineup,” said Drew Miller, who had his first two-goal game of the season in Saturday’s 8-2 win over Los Angeles. “I think that's a big thing for our third and fourth line guys to contribute here and there. For myself, it's nice to get goals and be on a line where guys are getting points. It always looks good when a defensive third or fourth line guy is getting points and helps the team like that. It's a little bonus for guys like us.”

Check out these recent numbers from the current third line: Miller, three goals in five games; Danny Cleary, three goals and five assists in seven games; and Darren Helm, a goal and four assists in five games.
“I think Dan Cleary and Helmer have straightened out their games, they're going north-south, they're playing physical, they're on the cycle,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said following Monday’s morning skate at Rexall Place. “Suddenly, Cleary has six points in his last four games, which is real good for him, got to be feeling good about himself. They can play against anybody. … If they continue to grow they'll make us a better team.”

Since mid-November, the Wings are 11-3-0, mainly on the strength of their big guns, particularly Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen, who have led the charge, accounting for 18 of the team’s 59 goals. But during that timeframe, the same number of goals has come from third and fourth line contributors, including Tomas Holmstrom, who has five goals since Nov. 19 at Los Angeles.

Part of the success from the third and fourth liners is that they’re crashing the net with greater regularity, which equates to more second-chance opportunities from rebounds in front of the crease. And that same type of contribution will be crucial if the Wings hope to fare well over the next four weeks, playing 11 road tilts in the next 16 games.

“Offensively, it's going better,” Cleary said. “When you start scoring more, everyone measures your game by statistics. Playing with Helmer, we've been playing well. We don't play an east-west game anyway. We've always played a north-south game, up and down, keeping it simple, going to the net. It seems you get more confidence, hang onto the puck a little longer, shooting a little more, getting to the net a little more.”

It also helps that the third line guys are playing with confidence and consistency.

“They're good players. We're doing things well,” said Helm, of his linemates. “Keeping it simple, going forward with the puck, not trying to do too much. All three of us were kind of struggling for a while there … put a few guys who are struggling together and good things start to happen.”

It also helps that all three are speed guys, who aren’t afraid to be physical in the corners and in front of the net.

“We're not top-end players, we understand that,” Helm said. “If all three of us play forward, get the puck ahead, play in their zone, be physical, we do have some skills, so it will come out if we're on the puck enough in their zone.

“I know I wasn't doing the best job previously. I think I'm doing a better job getting the puck in deep, I'm not trying to create something out of nothing. I can get away with it once in a while but I can't assume I'm that type of player. Clears and I are good when the puck's in their zone, we're grinding, being physical and forechecking.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill




1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54


H. Zetterberg 77 17 49 -6 66
P. Datsyuk 63 26 39 12 65
T. Tatar 82 29 27 6 56
G. Nyquist 82 27 27 -11 54
J. Abdelkader 71 23 21 3 44
N. Kronwall 80 9 35 -4 44
R. Sheahan 79 13 23 -3 36
D. Helm 75 15 18 7 33
D. DeKeyser 80 2 29 11 31
S. Weiss 52 9 16 -2 25
J. Howard 23 13 11 .910 2.44
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