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A short season leaves little room for error. A short three-game losing streak can cost a team a playoff spot. While one would hope that the entire roster will step up, there are five returning players that really need to step up this season.
Todd Bertuzzi is the oldest player on the team, and his best days are clearly behind him. He still has great hands to put the puck in the net. However, he is just slower on the ice. He is only signed through the end of next season, but could be pressed for playing time by the younger crowd.
He needs to recapture his physical presence that he once held on the ice. He might not be able to keep up with faster skaters anymore, but he can out muscle them.
Johan Franzen is perhaps the most frustrating Red Wing. At the end of the season he has good stats, but is known for being a streaky player. 19 of his 56 points happened over a 15-game streak. He also put together two separate four-game streaks where he combined for 12 points.
This means that 31 of his points occurred in only 23 games. Over the remaining 54 games that he played in, he only had 25 points. He needs to be a consistent force on the team. If he balanced out his various hot-and-cold streaks from last season, he could have had 73 points with 38 goals.
All eyes will be on Henrik Zetterberg as the new captain of the team. He has not broken the 30-goal mark in three seasons. There are signs of hope that he can return to his old form though. During the lockout, he played with Damien Brunner in the Swiss-A League.
He was impressive with 16 goals and 32 points in only 23 games. That would put him on pace for 57 goals in a normal NHL season. Granted the NHL will bring stronger opposition, but it was good to see him find his scoring touch again. Perhaps playing with Brunner has been a spark and he will be able to continue that upon his return to the team.
It is rare that you want a superstar player to be more selfish, but that is what the team needs from Pavel Datsyuk. While the team looked for a high-scoring player over the summer, they should not have needed to. Datsyuk is one of the most gifted players in the league and should fill that role.
He is a regular on the highlight reels for his crazy moves that embarrass defenders and goalies alike. He has always been a pass first type of player. While that is admirable at times, the team needs him to step up and become a scoring force. Ideally, he gets at least 20 goals in this shortened season.
Valtteri Filppula is the final player who will be watched closely. Last season, he had a career year when he scored 23 goals and had 66 points. He also was better defensively and became a real asset to the team.
This year he will need to show that was not a fluke year. He is in the final year of his contract. Often playing for a bigger contract is a great motivator for players.
This short season will be tough for the teams. Those that can adjust the quickest will have the best chance of making the playoffs.
PJ Sapienza is a featured columnist covering the Detroit Red Wings, as well as many other sports. He is also taking part in a Polar Plunge for Special Olympics and would greatly appreciate your support.
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