The Wings took to the ice for the first time in Tampa ahead of Game 1 tomorrow night against the Lightning. While Amalie Arena is getting ready for The Who tonight, the Red Wings were in Brandon, FL to practice.
We saw a change from the last few days of practice along with an update on Justin Abdelkader:
Datsyuk and Zetterberg reunited in practice today on line with Helm. Abdelkader skating in gray non-contact jersey an not on a line.— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) April 15, 2015
The Eurotwins back together? Is this going to be a real thing tomorrow night? Sure looks like it based on the lines in practice per Khan:
Lines: Helm-Datsyuk-Zetterberg Nyquist-Sheahan-Tatar Weiss-Andersson-Jurco Miller-Glendening-Ferraro Cleary and Pulkkinen rotating in— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) April 15, 2015
Ok, that's interesting. What about the defense? Khan again:
Same defense pairings as last 2 days: Kronwall-Ericsson DeKeyser-Marchenko Quincey-Zidlicky Smith-Kindl (likely scratches)— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) April 15, 2015
We all know that Petr Mrazek is starting in goal, so no updates there. After practice was over, we heard this from Bill Roose:
#RedWings Babcock said Datsyuk and Zetterberg will play together on same line in Game 1 unless Abdelkader is available.— The Wheel Deal (@Bill_Roose) April 15, 2015
Helene spoke to a familiar face and someone who factors in to this series in a very big yet indirect way:
Steve Yzerman as his Lightning prepare for playoffs against Wings: "There are other teams I'd rather be playing." pic.twitter.com/PHSKSYKIpr— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) April 15, 2015
Finally, a guy who will be missed by the Wings made an appearance, and he spoke to the diggers after practice:
Franzen in ice post practice...— Ted Kulfan (@tkulfan) April 15, 2015
Franzen has not ruled out this season but admits it is a long shot..planning on returning for training camp— Ted Kulfan (@tkulfan) April 15, 2015
Franzen said he rarely got out of bed first couple months— Ted Kulfan (@tkulfan) April 15, 2015
If Abdelkader isn't available (and not practicing with contact yet again certainly seems to indicate that's the case), then we could be looking at two pretty strong lines and two lines that will make us cry out "WHY?!?!" into the night.
Personally, I wonder if this is the beginning of the chess match between Mike Babcock and Jon Cooper. With Tampa holding the last change, they are going to be the ones dictating who plays against who. By stacking his top two lines, Babcock may be challenging Cooper to pit strength-against-strength and go with the Steven Stamkos line against the Eurotwins and the Triplets against the Kid line. That would mean the third and fourth lines would be playing against each other and it becomes a battle of depth. Or, Cooper could use last change to get either of his top lines out against the Wings' 4th line, which would obviously work out well for them. However, that potentially frees up one of the Wings' top two lines to play against the 3rd or 4th lines of Tampa.
This will all depend on the health of Abdelkader, but it's an intriguing change to the Wings' lineup a day or two after it was thought that the Wings would try to get Datsyuk's line and Zetterberg's line to get out against either Stamkos or the Triplets. Regardless, it's going to be fascinating to watch how Cooper plays this.