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DETROIT -- Red Wings coach Mike Babcock got in a few final gamesmanship swings Wednesday morning before Game 3 of this Western Conference semifinal, announcing not only his teams change (Kris Draper for Drew Miller, and thats all ... for now) and his lines (as expected, he is splitting Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk onto separate lines), but also declaring Sharks coach Todd McLellans as well.
Well practice with 93, 13, 96 (Johan Franzen, Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom), 44, 40, 11 (Todd Bertuzzi, Zetterberg and Dan Cleary), 8, 51 and 26 (Justin Abdelkader, Valteri Filppula and Jiri Hudler) and 33, 43 and 17 (Draper, Darren Helm and Patrick Eaves), and hell counter with moving Logan Couture onto (Joe) Thorntons line and putting (Patrick) Marleau in the middle.
To which McLellan smiled when asked if he could confirm Babcocks announcement and said, Maybe.
If I did that, he said, its just size and strength down the middle. Datsyuk and Zetterberg are obviously skilled, but theyre also very strong. Marleau is 6-3, 230, 225, in there, not that Logan Couture couldnt do the job, because he has.
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In other words, We might.
That said, McLellan reiterated the fact that individual matchups havent the import when two teams are so similarly constructed and have played so often.
There are no secrets, no magic, no strategies, he said. I hear broadcasters and analysts all the time saying how the coach should have had such and such a player on the ice for 10 seconds, but its not that easy.
And Babcock eventually confirmed that theory by saying of his changes, We didnt win when they (Datsyuk and Zetterberg) were together, and we gotta find a way to win a game.
McLellan may not open the game with Couture and Thornton together, because he hasnt messed with his top three lines in the first eight games of the playoffs, but he can go to them quickly enough if the Sharks got off their traditionally slow start. San Joses worst period throughout the season has been the first (they ranked 12th with 69 goals, and tied for first with 94 in the second), and the same has been true in the postseason, where they have two first period goals in their eight games but 12 in the second.
Maybe its the fact that the defense has the longer change in the second period, and were trying to be more cognizant of our line changes in the second, McLellan said. But I dont know for sure.
But as is his postseason mantra in all things, Maybe.
As in, We might.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.