Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 11/27/11
DETROIT -- Quick, name the Red Wings' top three scorers. Chances are you got Johan Franzen (22 points) and Pavel Datsyuk (19 points), but you might not have guessed that Valtteri Filppula is tied with Datsyuk. Filppula had two goals on three shots, plus an assist, in Saturday night's 4-1 victory over the Nashville Predators. That gives Filppula seven goals and 12 assists in just 22 games. He scored 16 goals and 23 assists in 71 games last season. Filppula is 27 now, a full-fledged veteran player, and the Wings are expecting more out of him. Now he's starting to deliver. "I said to (general manager) Kenny Holland, it might have been as good a stretch as he's had since he's been here," coach Mike Babcock said. "Good for us. "We've challenged Fil a lot here. We think Fil can score, and we think Fil can be a dominant player." Filppula had the Wings' first goal Saturday, on the power play in the first period. He drove to the net, and when Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne was sprawled on the ice after making a save on Todd Bertuzzi, Filppula collected the puck and had a beautiful backhand shot over Rinne. "I thought it was in by Bert, but it came right to me and the goalie was down, too, and I was able to shoot it over (him)," Filppula said. The second goal was a bit lucky. Linemate Jiri Hudler deflected the puck first, but the puck was deflected a second time by Filppula's outstretched stick in front of the net. Filppula said he knows the team needs more offense from him and has been working on it. "Trying to go to the net a little more and trying to shoot the puck a little more," Filppula said. "I think thats the main two things that Ive tried to focus on. "A lot of goals are scored by getting rebounds and stuff, and Im just trying to go to the net and find pucks." Last season Filppula had seven multi-point games. This season he already has five. "Yeah, Ive been getting more points this year than I did last year," Filppula said. "I think thats the main thing. "It first comes to winning. And obviously playing the power play, you hope to be able to help the team more, and getting those chances is good and sometimes they go in, as well." In general, Filppula is known for preferring to pass the puck instead of shooting it. His teammates hope that the positive reinforcement of scoring four goals in his last three games will encourage him to shoot more. "He's trying to use the D (defenseman) as a screen and take that shot," captain Nick Lidstrom said. "It's something that we try to push him to do, too, to take that shot because he's got a really strong wrist shot." Based on shooting percentage, no one should shoot more than Filppula, who leads with the team with a 17.9 shooting percentage. Since Babcock separated Euro Twins Henrik Zetterberg and Datsyuk, he has played Zetterberg with Filppula. Somehow the Swede and the Finn have managed to find their own chemistry. "He's skating very well," Zetterberg said. "He's a fast guy out there and can make good plays. He's fun to play with. It's easy to play with him. It's fun that he's getting rewarded with some nice goals." Zetterberg had just six points in his first 16 games but has seven (two goals, five assists) in his last six. "Its easy to play with Hank, hes a great player," Filppula said, returning the compliment. "Hes great with the puck, hes great without the puck. And when he has the puck, you just try to get open and hes going to give it to you. "And the same time when I have the puck, hes working hard to try to get available. So he makes it easy to get him the puck, as well. Really enjoying playing with him." Of course, playing with Zetterberg meant that Filppula had to shift from center to wing. But he seems to have made a smooth transition. "Its a little different, and it always takes a little time to get used to, definitely," Filppula said. "Playing in your own end, its a lot different. Thats pretty much the only thing. "Other than that, it hasnt changed too much with how we play. Its not a big difference, but it takes time to get used to being a winger. And I have to play a little closer to the boards, and thats something that Ive been practicing, as well." The thing that the Wings don't have to worry about is that Filppula will focus too much on offense and forget what a solid two-way player he's always been. "He's playing at the top of his game right now, whether it's backchecking or handling the puck," Lidstrom said. "How he plays with the puck, too. "He's so strong on the puck, and he can make it look so easy out there, so it's fun watching him out there."
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