DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings shook up their lines—and the Edmonton Oilers.
Dan Cleary and Tomas Holmstrom each scored twice to help Detroit beat Edmonton 6-2 on Thursday night.
Coach Mike Babcock made changes to all but the top unit of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Holmstrom. It’s not that the Red Wings (10-3-1) were struggling. But Jiri Hudler hadn’t been playing well and Babcock has been trying to find combinations that work for Hudler and the Red Wings.
He found them.
Hudler played on the second line with Valtteri Filppula and Johan Franzen. Hudler had a strong game, setting up Filppula’s goal. That trio played together quite a bit before Hudler left to play in Russia last season.
“Everyone knows each other, we’ve been playing together for a long time. Huds was away for a year but we know how he plays,” said Franzen, who also scored. “Usually when you change it up a little bit, the line combinations, it gives the team a little bit of a spark, everyone goes a little bit harder.”
Just what Babcock was looking for.
“I thought that line was really good right off the bat. They had good energy and they got some spark,” he said. “It’s always nice for your goal scorers to score some goals, they feel good about themselves.”
Todd Bertuzzi, who had been on the second line, went to the third line with Cleary and Mike Modano. Bertuzzi had two assists.
“The timing of the changes came at a good time. Everybody just rolled with the changes, didn’t think much of it.” Modano said. “Just go out there and play. I think everybody here at one time or another has played with everybody. so it’s pretty interchangeable, a luxury that Mike has.”
And Justin Abdelkader, who had replaced Hudler on the third line, moved to the fourth line with Darren Helm and Drew Miller.
Filppula had an assist to go along with his goal and Jimmy Howard made 23 saves.
Dustin Penner and Theo Peckham scored for Edmonton, which is 4-25-3 on the road since mid-December of last year. Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 28 shots.
“We’ve just got to keep working at it,” Oilers rookie Taylor Hall said.
It was a homecoming, of sorts, for Hall, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the June draft. He played junior hockey with the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires, who play just across the Detroit River.
Detroit led 3-0 after the first period.
Filppula opened the scoring at 7:29 when he beat Khabibulin from the slot by chipping a pass from Hudler, who was behind the net, just above the ice and into the net. It was Filppula’s fourth goal. Holmstrom got his first goal of the game, with 6:31 left, when he backhanded in a rebound from in front. Cleary’s first goal of the night came with 2:21 left on a shot from the top of the right circle.
“This is an absolute legit contender for the Stanley Cup,” Edmonton coach Tom Renney said. “They’ve got eight, nine or 10 plus players on their team. We’re working on half a dozen.”
Cleary got his second of the game and sixth of the season 2:18 into the second period.
Detroit’s Modano was awarded a penalty shot 5:22 into the second period when his legs were taken out by Edmonton defenceman Ryan Whitney on a breakaway. Khabibulin stopped Modano.
Franzen picked up a power-play goal with 2:57 left in the middle period. It was his seventh of the season and 100th goal of his career.
Penner put Edmonton on the board 58 seconds into the third period.
Holmstrom added his sixth goal of the season with 3:20 left.
Peckham got his first career goal with 1:15 remaining.
NOTES: Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom (2-11-13) and Datsyuk (4-9-13) stretched their points streaks to 10 games. … Edmonton captain Shawn Horcoff missed his second game because of a lower-body injury. … Cleary ran his goal streak to four games and his point streak to six (5-4-9). … Each of the Red Wings’ top nine forwards had at least a point.