12/9/2008

Wings' Hossa has new linemate in Zetterberg

By HELENE ST. JAMES • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER

Wings' Hossa has new linemate in Zetterberg

January 20, 2011

When Marian Hossa showed up for work Monday morning, his usual center greeted him with a smile and thanked him for the memories.

It was Pavel Datsyuk's way of telling Hossa the two were no longer linemates. Their split was part of an overall shuffling that saw Hossa moved to a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Dan Cleary, and Datsyuk centering Tomas Holmstrom and Valtteri Filppula. Johan Franzen, a mainstay on Zetterberg's left side, centered the third line with Mikael Samuelsson and Jiri Hudler, and Kris Draper was with Kirk Maltby and Tomas Kopecky.

It's the first time Hossa has been with a center other than Datsyuk. "I didn't play with Z one game, so it's something new," Hossa said. "I think Hank shoots a little more than Pavel. Pavel is more a real passer. So they are a little different there, but they are pretty similar players -- they back-check hard, they play well in both end zones."

Hossa has clicked phenomenally with Datsyuk, though Datsyuk slyly suggested there might be tension between the two. "I tell him after a game he too much yell at me," Datsyuk said, smiling. "He want I more pass."

Though the Wings are second in the NHL with a 3.54 goals-per-game average, that number might be higher if more forwards shot more. Hossa leads the Wings with 113 shots, and Zetterberg is second at 94; not coincidentally, Hossa leads the Wings with 29 points, and Zetterberg is second with 25. Filppula and Cleary each have far too good a shot to have only 43 and 46 shots, respectively.

There's no guarantee, however, these lines will be intact when the Wings play next, Wednesday against Calgary. All coach Mike Babcock has decided is that Ty Conklin will get his second straight start in net.

"I just want us to play better," Babcock said. "To me, to be a good team you've got to engage emotionally. It's an emotional game, and it takes passion and energy to be the best. When you're not like that -- and there's lots of times during the year you're not because it's just impossible, it's 82 games -- sometimes change is as good as a rest."

Zetterberg sounded happy to gain Hossa, who brings more speed to the right side, and Cleary.

"The most impressive thing I've seen is his work ethic," Zetterberg said. "It's not just one way, it's both ways -- he really back-checks hard and makes it easier for his linemates to play good."

There were also changes on defense, with Nicklas Lidstrom opposite Brad Stuart and Niklas Kronwall opposite Brian Rafalski, leaving Andreas Lilja-Brett Lebda intact. Defenseman Chris Chelios is ready to grab a spot if needed, having recovered from a broken leg.

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