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Fantasy Puck Preview: Detroit Red Wings

Scott Cullen
9/29/2010 11:49:50 AM
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2009-2010 was a down season for the Detroit Red Wings and, while they might be getting on in years, they have reloaded and should be among the league's best once again.

Detroit will once again lean on the duo of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, only this year, it seems, the intention is for them to play together on the same line, which immediately makes it one of the best lines in hockey.

Zetterberg's 23 goals last year was his lowest total since 2003-2004, but with five straight seasons scoring at least 68 points and six consecutive seasons with a double-digit plus rating, he remains an elite talent, made all the more valuable if he's a left winger.

Datsyuk scored 70 points last season, his fewest since 2003-2004 as well, but he's as good as any two-way forward in the game, registering a combined plus-154 (to accompany his 438 points) over the last five seasons. Paired with Zetterberg, the expectation is that the duo could be back in point-per-game territory again.

37-year-old Tomas Holmstrom is the lucky one slated to play the wing with Datsyuk and Zetterberg and while he's productive (25 goals last year was the third-highest total of his 13-year career), his front-of-the-net battling has taken it's toll and he's missed 66 games over the last three seasons.

Coming off an injury-marred campaign in his own right, Johan Franzen is one of the best (if unheralded) goal-scorers in the game. Over the last three seasons, Franzen has 71 goals in 170 games or .42 per game, which ranks 19th in the league over a time period that he's also added 31 goals in 51 playoff games.

If he can stay healthy, then, a 30-goal season should be expected from for The Mule, even if he's not necessarily patrolling Datsyuk's wing.

The Wings have been, as is their custom, patient with Valtteri Filppula and his points per game have increased in each of his NHL seasons. The 26-year-old is slated to centre the Wings' second line this year and a certain amount of offensive production will be expected. At the very least, he should surpass his career-best 40 points, set in 2008-2009.

Back from a year in the KHL Jiri Hudler will add offensive skill to the lineup. He had 57 points with the Wings in 2008-2009, then 54 points in 54 games with Moscow Dynamo last season, so the diminutive puckhandler will boost the Wings' secondary scoring.

35-year-old Todd Bertuzzi isn't going to resurrect his days of NHL stardom, but he has settled into a role, scoring between 40 and 44 points, with more than a penalty minute per game, over the last three seasons.

In deep leagues, that still makes him a useful contributor; he'd be even moreso if he can shake the minus ratings he's put up the last two years.

Nicklas Lidstrom is now 40 and if his game has slipped, it's barely noticeable. His production was down some last year (like most of the Wings), but there were only XX defencemen with more than 45 points and a plus-minus better than plus-20 -- Lidstrom, Mike Green, Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty and Chris Pronger -- so he still travels in elite company.

A midseason slump (three points in 16 games from Nov. 203 through the end of December) cut into Brian Rafalski's overall numbers, but he's been a stalwart in three seasons with the Red Wings, averaging 52 points and a plus-22 rating.

If Rafalski's production slips again, the Wings have legitimate hope that Niklas Kronwall can fill the void, if only Kronwall can stay healthy.

29-year-old Kronwall has played more than 68 games in an NHL season just once in his career, so assuming good health is a tad hopeful, but he's productive enough and plays for a good team so he's still appealing for fantasy owners.

There is an element of risk when selecting a second-year goaltender coming off a terrific rookie season like Jimmy Howard (as Steve Mason showed last season), but with such a strong team in front of him, Howard should be able to decline a little in his performance and still hold down the number one job.

If he gets 60-plus starts for the Wings, Howard could win 40 this year and rank among the very best fantasy goaltending options.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

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