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Thursday, June 6
Updated: June 6, 11:41 PM ET
 
Unexpected line grinding out Wings' goals

By Lindsay Berra
ESPN The Magazine

DETROIT -- The Grind line needs a new name.

McCarty
McCarty

Draper
Draper

Maltby
Maltby

Perhaps the Nobody-Else-Is-Scoring-So-We-Might-As-Well-Do-It line.

During the first two games of the Stanley Cup finals against the Hurricanes, the Red Wings' fourth line of Kirk Maltby, Kris Draper and Darren McCarty has combined for three goals and two assists, for five points. All other forwards on the team have a combined one goal and three assists, for four points.

Yet the number of their goals isn't as impressive as their timing -- and on Thursday, their style.

Just over six minutes into Game 2, as the Red Wings were killing off their second penalty of the game, Maltby relieved the pressure that had carried over from their overtime loss in Game 1 by scoring on a shorthanded break. Draper set up the play with a nifty one-touch lead pass at the red line to Maltby, who snapped it past the glove of Carolina goalie Arturs Irbe.

"I was really in the right spot at the right time. Kris and Chris did a great job," said Maltby, deflecting credit as usual. "I saw Irbe was leaning a little bit, so I tried to place it as quick as possible."

Draper, who had missed a wide-open net earlier in the period, sealed the Wings' win at 15:05 of the third period by beating Irbe with a perfect wrister from the left circle. The shot zipped over the goalie's shoulder and found the top right corner of the net.

"It felt good when Mac gave me one of his patented big bear hugs, and it was nice to give ourselves the two-goal cushion that you're always searching for," Draper said.

The Wings' Grind line is able to flourish because the Hurricanes place their defensive focus on the Wings' top two lines -- Brendan Shanahan, Sergei Fedorov and Steve Yzerman, and Tomas Holmstrom, Igor Larionov and Luc Robitaille. The Grind line also thrives against the Hurricanes' system.

"There's not a lot of room out there. They play such a great trapping style," McCarty said. "This really benefits us a little bit more because we can get in there and play the body and grind it around. That's where we are at our best."

The Red Wings have enough talent that they can roll four lines without altering the level of play. While the Grind line is still their most physical line (13 hits in Game 2), it has also been providing an offensive spark throughout the playoffs.

So, will Maltby, Draper and McCarty be applying for that name change?

"Not at all. We're very happy with our name. It fits the way we play more than anything," Maltby said. "We don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but we know we're capable of scoring when the opportunity comes upon us."

No doubt it will come up again.



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