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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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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
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

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
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
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Howard 23 13 11 .910 2.44
P. Mrazek 16 9 2 .918 2.38

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