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Andersson ascends to top-line center

Without Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Weiss, Andersson will be counted on to create offense

Tuesday, 03.4.2014 / 1:55 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com
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Andersson ascends to top-line center
Known more as a defensive center, Joakim Andersson will be asked to help create more offensive Tuesday night against the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Getty Images)

NEWARK, N.J. Joakim Andersson knows what’s at stake tonight when the Red Wings try to stretch their post-Olympics winning streak to three straight games.

For the sixth time this season both Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are out of Detroit’s lineup tonight against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center.

Down three centermen – Stephen Weiss is still recovering from sports hernia surgery – the 25-year-old Andersson has ascended to the top forward group where he will center a line with Gustav Nyquist and Johan Franzen, who was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week on Monday.

The expectations for Andersson are be exceptionally high. He’s a capable centerman in the face-off circle but he doesn’t have a point in his past 11 games. The Red Wings need the two points in a tightly-contested Eastern Conference playoff race and Andersson will be looked upon to get the puck to a pair of wingers who have been on hot streaks lately.

“Well he’s just gotta be a guy who gets some pucks back, gotta be a guy who wins faceoffs and plays well in detail and the rest will look after itself,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Just play and do what he does.”

Playing on a line with two wingers who are playing extremely well right now should give a boost to any centerman, Andersson said.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun with two great players,” he said. “I haven’t played with Mule much but Nyquist I’ve been playing with him before and it’s going to be a lot of fun.

“We’re missing some top centermen, so it’s an opportunity for me and a couple of other players to get some of those minutes that they usually get.”

Since returning from a concussion last week, Franzen produced three goals and five points in road wins at Montreal and Ottawa. Though he missed 27 games, Franzen is still fifth in team scoring with 12 goals and 28 points in 33 games. As for Nyquist, since mid-January, the 24-year-old Swede has collected at least a point in 11 of the past 13 games, producing 10 goals and 18 points and a plus-7 rating during that span.

As for Andersson joining his line, Nyquist believes the transition from fourth line center to the No. 1 hole will be a smooth one.

“He’s such a good player, such a complete player, I don’t think that’ll be too hard for him,” Nyquist said. “He was first line in Grand Rapids pretty much all his time down there. Obviously, he’s known as a very (good) defensive center but he can really make plays, he’s smart, he’s got a good shot. I think he’ll fit right in.”

Andersson, who has seven goals and 13 points in 54 games, hopes the switch will breathe some life into his game.

“Hopefully I can start to produce too with them,” Andersson said. “It’s been awhile since I’ve put up some points. … Playing with those guys will give me an opportunity to do that.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 54 40 10 4 178 124 84
2 FLA 56 32 18 6 153 132 70
3 NYR 55 31 18 6 157 140 68
4 BOS 55 30 19 6 163 150 66
5 DET 55 28 18 9 138 134 65
6 NJD 57 29 21 7 125 124 65
7 TBL 54 30 20 4 144 130 64
8 NYI 54 29 19 6 153 137 64
9 PIT 54 28 19 7 139 136 63
10 CAR 56 25 21 10 137 146 60
11 PHI 54 24 20 10 128 140 58
12 MTL 56 27 25 4 151 151 58
13 OTT 57 25 26 6 159 177 56
14 BUF 57 23 28 6 135 156 52
15 CBJ 57 23 28 6 144 175 52
16 TOR 54 20 25 9 127 151 49

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
D. Larkin 54 18 20 25 38
H. Zetterberg 55 10 28 5 38
T. Tatar 54 16 17 -1 33
G. Nyquist 55 14 16 -1 30
P. Datsyuk 40 9 21 14 30
J. Abdelkader 55 14 15 -2 29
M. Green 47 4 17 -7 21
N. Kronwall 45 3 14 -10 17
B. Richards 41 5 11 6 16
D. DeKeyser 51 7 8 12 15
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 21 10 5 .933 1.94
J. Howard 7 8 4 .904 2.89