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Berggren-Veleno-Czarnik Line Showing Depth of Red Wings

Detroit’s fourth line has a goal in three of the past four games



Jonatan Berggren, Detroit Red Wings

On paper, the value of the fourth line of the Detroit Red Wings is apparent. The trio of Joe Veleno, Jonatan Berggren and Austin Czarnik has scored a goal in each of Detroit’s two victories to launch the club’s current four-game road trip.

In fact, the line has scored in three of Detroit’s past four games. But the impact of this unit goes far beyond the scoresheet.

“That line has had some great chemistry,” Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde said. “Today’s NHL with the salary cap it’s hard to build a true one line, two line, three line, four line, that fourth line just being a checking line, heavy line.

“Sometimes you’re going to have looks like this, where we’re at.”

Step back and encompass the big picture, and the role this threesome is playing in the success story that’s so far unfolding for the Red Wings becomes even more vital.

Red Wings Hurting At Forward

Currently, Detroit is listing five forwards on the injury list. Tyler Bertuzzi, Robby Fabbri, Matt Luff, Elmer Soderblom and Filip Zadina are all out. As recently as a year ago, such a rash of injuries would’ve been fatal to any hopes of Red Wings success.

Through the draft, wily trades and some astute veteran free-agent additions, Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman has emboldened the team with depth. It’s not merely bringing in key NHL types such as goalie Ville Husso, defensemen Olli Maatta and Ben Chiarot and forwards David Perron and Dominik Kubalik. Those are the obvious upgrades.

Beyond, and below those additions at the minor-league level Yzerman also improved the Red Wings with key minor-league veterans such as Czarnik. He’ll turn 30 on Monday. Detroit is Czarnik’s fifth NHL team. His next game with be his 150th as an NHLer. He’s scored 17 goals.

This is Czarnik’s second stint as a fill-in for the Red Wings. He got the recall from the AHL Grand Rapids last week when Bertuzzi underwent surgery after being struck with a shot. Last season, there wasn’t a player of Czarnik’s ilk on the Detroit depth chart who could come up, fill in and be a productive NHLer.

“Very valuable,” Lalonde said of Czarnik. “We don’t get to see these guys every day but this was an easy conversation between Steve and I.

“We really like Austin, we trust Austin. He understands our system, our culture. He gets along with the guys. You can plug him in easily.

“So very important to have a guy who can come up seamlessly like that.”

Berggren Another Draft Gem

Last season, Red Wings got their first look at the draft class of Yzerman when defenseman Moritz Seider and forward Lucas Raymond stepped directly into the Red Wings lineup.

Berggren is from the last draft class of previous GM Ken Holland in 2018, taken 33rd overall. His arrival puts three players from that group in the Detroit lineup. Linemate Veleno and Zadina were 2018 first-round picks.

In 12 NHL games, Berggren has collected 3-5-8 totals.

“I think he’s helped our bottom six because he brings skill to it,” Lalonde said. “We’ve been really happy with him. Every game is a great experience for him. Every game there’s growth.”

Veleno has struggled to find a role during his time in Detroit, but seems to be a good fit in his current spot.

“He’s getting what he deserves, more and more trust,” Lalonde said. “His minutes are going up. We’re trusting him first shift after special teams. We’ve had him with a shutdown situation a couple times after our power play has been out there and he’s done good.

“You can see some confidence in his game.”

All Three Red Wings Fourth Liners Have Played Together Before

Last season when he was in Grand Rapids, Veleno and Berggren skated on the same line. This season in GR, Berggren and Czarnik were linemates.

“He’s unreal,” Czarnik said of Berggren. “He makes plays every time he can. He’s easy to play with. You know what you’re getting out of him, you know kind of player he is.

“I love playing with him. He’s just going to be a great player.”

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That familiarity has also enabled the group to quickly mesh as an NHL trio.

“I trust that line,” Lalonde said.

Red Wings fans are feeling the same way.