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February 18, 2004 - Grind Line flexes offensive muscle
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Grind Line flexes offensive muscle

February 18, 2004

BY GEORGE SIPPLE
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER

Kris Draper had more shorthanded goals than nine of the NHL's 30 teams through Monday.

Draper picked up his fifth in Monday's 2-1 victory over Edmonton. Only Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis (seven) has more.

"For us, we just try to throw the other team's power play off and try to create a turnover," Kirk Maltby said Tuesday. "Especially with Kris' speed, if you can just get the puck out into the neutral zone, he can chase it down. He gets some breakaways from it, too. There's no real explanation for it. It's just a little bit of luck and some breaks and hard work."

Draper and Maltby are part of the Grind Line, which is not known for scoring. But coach Dave Lewis dismissed the notion that when they score, it's a bonus.

"I don't consider it bonus offense now," Lewis said. "There's a bit of an expectation now, especially what Kris did in the first 40 games. We look to him when he gets chances to put the puck away."

PLAY THE PUCK: Defenseman Chris Chelios is against any plans to limit the goalie's ability to play the puck behind the net. The idea has been floated as a way to increase scoring.

"It's like a sixth player out there," Chelios said. "Look at goalies that do play the puck, the (Ed) Belfours,(Martin) Brodeurs,the Patrick Roys. That's a skill. That's just a talent, and they do it very well. Other goalies should work on that if they don't play the puck. That's their fault."

ONCE MORE: Mathieu Dandenault impressed in his first game at center Monday and will continue to play there "at least one more game," Lewis said. The Wings play Phoenix tonight at Joe Louis Arena. Dandenault played Monday with Darren McCarty and Steve Thomas, who was impressed by his new linemate.

"I don't think our line was anywhere near any sort of liability out there," Thomas said. "We got a lot of good scoring chances and made things happen when we went on the ice. I think that warrants another crack at it for sure."

Thomas said Dandenault's versatility is valuable.

"Next thing you know," Thomas said, "we'll see him in the net one of these days. Who knows?"

NOTEBOOK: Center Pavel Datsyuk and defenseman Jason Woolley didn't practice Tuesday. "Pavel didn't feel real well, so I just told him to stay home," Lewis said. "And Jason Woolley's just a little sore." Both are expected to play tonight.