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Wings, Canucks to test similarities

Battle of Western Conference powers set to take center stage

Wednesday, 12.21.2011 / 2:03 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - Managing Editor |
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Wings, Canucks to test similarities
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VANCOUVER, B.C. – Whether it’s comparing the Sedin twins to Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen or Ryan Kesler to Pavel Datsyuk, the similarities between the Red Wings and the Canucks takes center stage when these two Western Conference powers face-off tonight at Rogers Arena.

Forget that both teams are currently in second-place of their respective divisions or that the Wings and Canucks had slow starts to the season. Both squads have snapped out of their slow-start slumbers and are quickly climbing the conference ranks.

“You have two teams, at least in our mind, that play the right way,” said Alain Vigneault, now the winningest coach in Canucks’ history. “They play a high-paced game, they like to play fast. There are a lot of components to our game that are similar to Detroit.”

The Wings and the Canucks are at the top of the league at making opponents pay for taking penalties. Entering Wednesday, the power plays units are two of the NHL’s best with the top-ranked Canucks scoring at a 26.1 percent clip and the Wings at 21.1 percent. The Sedins are the top of their game, with Henrik (17) and Daniel (16) leading the league in power-play points. Datsyuk leads the Wings with 13 points on the man-advantage. 

“It'll be fun. They're a good team, they're playing well,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We look forward to playing them. They play with good organization, structure, good goaltending. We've had lots of good games with them over the years. I expect it to be the same (tonight).”

Offensive defensemen and goaltending will also be keys in this game with Jimmy Howard and Canucks’ Roberto Luongo expected to get the start Wednesday. Certainly, the Wings are looking for a must-needed road win, but they also look forward to games like this against the league’s elite.

“You want to compare yourself to them to see how you measure up, so it should be another intense game,” Howard said. “Puck possession, they like to create and get pucks down low, cycle. They get their D involved – D dropping down. It is very similar playing against us.

“They're not bad. You got to be aware of the Sedin brothers and (Alex) Burrows, seems like their line is playing really well right now and Jannik Hansen as well has been scoring for them. It's going to be a tough test.”

Hansen has six goals in the last nine games, Burrows has three goals in three games, and Kesler has three goals and three assists in the last five contests. Meanwhile, the Wings have relied on balance with their third and fourth lines collecting 20 goals in Detroit’s 12-3-0 stretch in the last 15 games.

The third line of Darren Helm, Danny Cleary and Drew Miller has been remarkable lately, and accounted for two goals, including the game-winner, in Monday’s 3-2 victory at Edmonton

“Helm's line was our best line (Monday) night, won us the game,” Babcock said. “So it gives those guys an opportunity every night to help you, and the deeper team you have the better off you are.”

But as is the case in most games, the Wings will have to play a disciplined style against a Canucks that is playing better now, especially at home where they’ve allowed just one goal in the last three games at Rogers Arena. So obviously, the Wings will have to limit taking penalties, while getting plenty of shots on Luongo to create scoring chances off rebounds in close.

“It seems Vancouver's found their groove,” Cleary said. “They got off to a little bit of a slow start but they certainly got a talented team. The key is probably going to be get some body on those guys, make sure you're aware when they're on the ice, stay out of the penalty box.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill




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