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Sunday, January 12, 2020

Lineup changes, new line combos possible for tonight’s game vs. Los Angeles Kings

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Shae Brophy
Born and raised Michigander. Former mixed martial artist, currently attempting to figure out how to golf without embarrassing myself. Very passionate Michigan sports fan. Wolverines, Red Wings, Tigers, Pistons and Lions. Life is good as a fan of Michigan sports!

After watching his team score exactly two goals in the last three games, Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill is leaving the ball in his players’ court.

“We met yesterday; we had a good 30-minute practice,” he told the Detroit Free Press. “Energy is crucially important. I put it in their hands to decide if they need to go on the ice to get their hands and feet moving and then let’s come out ready to play.”

Blashill also said that he expects to have everyone who played in Monday’s 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes available, as well as defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, who will make his return after missing three games with back spasms.

Tomas Jurco said at this morning’s practice that he is out tonight, meaning that the line combos that the team used at practice this morning will likely be used tonight. Those lines were:

  1. Mantha-Zetterberg-Vanek,
  2. Nielsen-Larkin-Glendening,
  3. Tatar-Sheahan-Nyquist, and
  4. Miller-Athanasiou-Ott.

Rookie defenseman Ryan Sproul also said that he is expecting to play tonight, which given the team’s lack of offense from the back end, could provide a needed change.

Riley Sheahan, who is still looking for his first goal of the season, would in turn be on a line with fellow struggling teammates Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist, both of whom have four goals on the season.

“I have gone through a thorough thought process,” Blashill said. “I’ve looked at lots of different things — whether it’s statistics, whether it’s chemistry, whether it’s what we think is going to give our line combinations the best opportunity to win. It still comes down to, man by man, playing at a high level.”

Frans Nielsen cited the power play as an area in need of improvement. “Specialty teams are so important,” he said. “Us guys on the power play have to find a way and help this team win hockey games. PK has been great lately. Power play has to step up. It’s tough when you never score there.”

To Nielsen’s point, the power play has been bad, and the penalty kill has been exceptional lately. In the team’s last 13 games, they have killed off 34 of 36 opposing power plays, a kill department that ranks 7th in the league at 84.1 percent on the season. As for the power play, since the beginning of November, they have converted on a staggering six of their 60 power play opportunities. Overall, they are converting at a 13.9% clip with the man-advantage, which is ranks as the fifth-worst in hockey.

Despite dropping their last game to the cellar-dwelling Coyotes, tonight’s visit from the Kings could be just what the doctor ordered. Los Angeles currently holds a 14-12-2 record and 30 points, the fifth lowest point total in the Western Conference.

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