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Wednesday, May 4, 2011
LeBrun: Sharks-Red Wings pregame report

By Pierre LeBrun

DETROIT -- Brian Rafalski skipped Wednesday morning's optional skate, his third straight day off the ice, but said he would play in Game 3.

"Oh yeah, 100 percent sure, no question," the veteran Red Wings blueliner said this morning. "Just a little swelling in the knee ... [making] sure it doesn't get aggravated any more and get ready for tonight."

Detroit coach Mike Babcock said that Rafalski would play and confirmed that veteran center Kris Draper would replace Drew Miller in the lineup. Draper, 39, missed the first two games of this series.

"That's our only lineup change," Babcock said.

He also confirmed his forward line changes for Game 3, splitting up star centers Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk on different lines. The two stars were loaded up on the same top line for the two losses in San Jose.

Babcock said his lines to start the game would be: Datsyuk between Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom; Zetterberg between Todd Bertuzzi and Daniel Cleary; Valtteri Filppula between Justin Abdelkader and Jiri Hudler; Darren Helm between Draper and Patrick Eaves.

"So, as soon as I split up Pav and Z, that means [Logan] Couture will play on the left side with [Joe] Thornton and [Devin] Setoguchi. [Patrick] Marleau will play in the middle with [Ryane] Clowe and [Dany] Heatley," Babcock said. His decision to announce San Jose's line changes tongue-in-cheek ignited laughter in the news conference room at Joe Louis Arena.

"The reason I know this is that we've been through this, this year, already," Babcock said. "It's just one of those things. But to me, it's not about matchups. I liked the matchups in San Jose. I didn't think that had a bearing on the game. I thought they won more 50-50 pucks, and both second periods they've been better than us. They've been on the puck and grind our D more. Their offense isn't one-and-done; their offense is one-and-grind. Not that they're getting marvelous opportunities that way, but they're wearing on us. We haven't done that enough."

When told later that Babcock announced what San Jose would do with its lines because Datsyuk and Zetterberg were being split up, Sharks coach Todd McLellan smiled and said, "Guess we're done here then," cracking up the media gathering.

McLellan was asked specifically about Babcock's assertion that the Sharks' coach would put Logan Couture with Joe Thornton. "We might," McLellan said.

Then he paused and got serious.

"You know, when it comes to that, it's not going to matter," McLellan said. "The five players on the ice are all talented. They've all played in these situations. You never get what you want exactly as a coach, anyway. I think way too much is made about matchups."

Better Boyle

San Jose defenseman Dan Boyle self-admittedly had a first round to forget, but he's rebounded strongly through the first two games of the second round, playing some of his best hockey of the season.

"I just feel better," Boyle told ESPN.com. "My energy last series, for whatever reason, went down. Once your energy is down, you start to make mental mistakes, which I think is what happened. I was too tired to make certain plays."

Family and friends

Sharks winger Kyle Wellwood grew up across the river in Windsor, Ontario, so there obviously will be lots of family and friends, led by Mom and Dad, at the game Wednesday night in Detroit.

"Probably between 75 to 100, actually," Wellwood said after the morning skate. "But I didn't have to organize tickets. They did it on their own."

Couture won't be so fortunate. The native of London, Ontario, which is only two hours from Detroit, said his parents called him and told him their passports expired. It'll take a few days to get new ones, so he's hoping they'll be here for Game 4.

"It's too bad because they love coming here for games," Couture said.