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Copp finally feeling it for Red Wings

Red Wings center Andrew Copp has five goals this season, but two goals in the past five games.

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Andrew Copp, Red Wings

Andrew Copp believes that the Detroit Red Wings are beginning to find their game on a more regular basis. Copp also is certain that his own game is evolving to a level where it should be.

That these two elements are coming together at the same time is not mere coincidence.

When the Red Wings were signing Copp to a five-year, $28.125-million contract last summer, this is the role they envisioned the 28-year-old center filling. Playing between Michael Rasmussen and David Perron, they are a grinding presence in the offensive zone that is relentless on the forecheck and is driving offense for the club.

Red Wings’ Second Line Finding Chemistry

“That line has a little bit of chemistry,” Detroit coach Derek Lalonde said.”They grind zone time.”

Copp and Rasmussen were the combination that created the winning goal in Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime verdict over the San Jose Sharks. Rasmussen did the spade work. He won a battle to get the puck back following an O-zone faceoff loss by Copp. Driving to the net, Rasmussen caused so much havoc that all there was left for Copp to do was push a loose puck into an empty San Jose net.

It was the hockey equivalent of sinking a three-foot putt for a tournament victory. At that juncture, it’s easy to forget all of the hard work and key moments leading up to that winning moment.

“I feel like the three of us are really starting to understand each other and know where each other are going to be and know the type of hockey that we want to play,” Copp said of his linemates. “I think we’re gonna continue to get better and continue to grow our game.

“From the jump, I thought we had something there. As it’s gone along, I’ve gotten more and more excited about the prospect of us trying to continue to grow some chemistry together.”

For Copp, it was only his fifth goal of a season which in all honesty, has proven to be a struggle for him.

Offseason Surgery Slowing Copp To Start

Splitting last season between the Winnipeg Jets and New York Rangers, Copp was scoring a career-high 21 goals. Adding another six goals and 14 points in 20 playoff games, his arrival in Detroit was greeted with great expectations.

The start of his Detroit career, though, was delayed. Copp wound up missing all of training camp and the entire NHL preseason while recuperating from core surgery.

In life, absence makes the heart grow fonder. However, in sports, absence only makes the heart beat slower. When the season was starting, it was abundantly clear that Copp wasn’t up to NHL speed.

It’s only been lately that he’s again finding a comfort zone on the ice.

“I think me personally, especially just with the injury and how it started, I can feel it start to build,” Copp said. “I can feel myself getting a lot more confident in the play a little more, because I’m feeling better.”

Lalonde is also seeing the guy of late that they were anticipating would be playing a key role in their lineup.

“He’s been great,” Lalonde said. “It looks like he’s getting his legs back. Those core surgeries are tough to come back from and it looks like he’s got more pop in him.”

Game Coming Together For Copp In January

Over the month of January, Copp has collected six points in 11 games, including two of his five goals.

“He’s been good and just what we’ve asked him on the (penalty) kill,” Lalonde said. “We’d taken him off the power play, . . . just because we’ve asked so much of him on the kill. We’ve almost asked two shifts, 1:15, 1:30 on every kill.”

While he’s not lighting red lamps at last season’s pace, with 5-21-26 totals, it’s also easy to forget who was on Copp’s win wih the Rangers, Hart Trophy contender Artemi Panarin.

“We’re asking him to be a 1-2 center,” Lalonde said of Copp. “(Last season) he’s on a wing with maybe the most offensive skilled guy in the league in (Artemi) Panarin and I think that’s a lot different ask.

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“Maybe his goals might not be on par but his points have to be fairly close to his career average.”

Copp is on a 47-point pace. so he’s not that far off last season’s personal best of 53 points. Just as importantly, he’s delivering the type of 200-foot game that has long made Copp a valuable member of his team.

“He just looks like a great athlete out there,” Lalonde said. “Very pleased with Copper in every situation.”

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Robert Alpiner

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