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NHL Detroit Red Wings

Third Line Needs To Contribute When Detroit Red Wings Face Phoenix Coyotes

Todd Bertuzzi

James Guillory – USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday, the Detroit Red Wings will try and bounce back from an ugly loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday when they host the Phoenix Coyotes at Joe Louis Arena. The Wings will have had four days off and plenty of time to work on the problems that popped up against Boston. Among the issues they will be looking at improving are a power play that has yet to score a goal and a third line that has not been able to chip in offensively so far.

The Coyotes have the fourth-worst penalty kill in the league at the moment, so if the Wings are ever going to get that first power play goal this would be a great chance. Phoenix was 22nd in the league on the kill last season, and they have given up three goals to opponents in eight chances. They face the New York Islanders Tuesday night. The lack of production from the third line could be a tougher problem to solve, as Dan Cleary, Todd Bertuzzi and Joakim Andersson have had a few chances but haven’t been able to convert yet. Combined, they have 11 shots on goal through three games and are averaging anywhere from 13 minutes (Bertuzzi) to 15 minutes (Cleary, Bertuzzi) per game. While Andersson is a valuable penalty killer, Bertuzzi and Cleary still have a lot to prove. The Red Wings made an unpopular move in bringing Cleary back this season, even though it meant severely reducing the ice time of youngsters Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist. Bertuzzi still needs to show that he is back to full strength after missing most of the 2013 season due to injury. So far, most of the Red Wings offense has come from the top two lines and that may have worked in the first two games but it won’t be enough to sustain them for the entire season. The third line needs to start delivering, and Thursday is a great time for them to start.

Jonathan Katje is an NHL featured columnist for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter or add him to your circles on Google Plus.