A makeshift third line is flying under the radar for the Detroit Red Wings

The Detroit Red Wings have gotten some timely scoring and production from an unexpected trio during their stellar 9-2-2 run in January.
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The Detroit Red Wings went on a tear to begin 2024, ripping off 20 out of a possible 26 points, and find themselves placed firmly in the second wild card position with some breathing room. Although I will admit, that gap is expected to shrink with the majority of the league in action this week, while the Red Wings are off until Saturday when they will welcome the Western Conference-leading Vancouver Canucks into Little Caesars Arena before beginning a west coast road trip that will begin with the scorching hot Edmonton Oilers and the Canucks again.

The Detroit Red Wings have gotten some unexpected production from an unlikely or unexpected source during their excellent January run. Head coach Derek Lalonde, like many coaches, isn't afraid to reach for the blender before filling out his lineup card when things are not going very well. Detroit was forced to use many different line combinations throughout a rough stretch that lasted nearly all of December. Things vastly changed in January, and a large part of it was due to the play of a makeshift third line.

Lalonde has found something with his third-line combination of Andrew Copp, Michael Rasmussen, and Christian Fischer. It's an energy line that has excelled with a tenacious forecheck and also helped out with some depth scoring. It's a unit that Lalonde has no concerns about matching up against the opponent's top unit, which, in turn, frees up Dylan Larkin's top line and creates a mismatch against a second or third line.

The Detroit Red Wings have found production and timely scoring from an unexpected group during their 9-2-2 January run.

Copp, similar to Jeff Petry, has become a punching bag among fans for his lack of production. I get it. Steve Yzerman signed the former Wolverine to center Detroit's second line, and he's compensated accordingly. The problem? He's struggled to create consistent offense, and he's all but snakebitten when it comes to goal-scoring. So far this season, Copp has managed to score ten goals and total 24 points through 49 games. Last season, he tallied nine goals and 42 points over 82 contests. Things have improved for Copp of late. He's scored two goals over the past five games and produced a stout 53.1% win percentage on the season in the faceoff circle, almost 2% better than his career average. Copp has been a valuable penalty-killing forward this season, often paired with J.T. Compher on the first unit. He's found a role, and although it's not precisely what Red Wings fans had hoped, he's seemed to embrace it over the past month.

Like Copp, Michael Rasmussen has settled into his role on the third line. Rasmussen, 24, brings a ton of size to the group at 6-foot-6 but also has shown flashes of top-six hands; he needs to be a lot more consistent in the offensive zone moving forward. Rasmussen has recorded two assists over his past five games and a goal and four assists over his past ten games. He's notched ten goals and 22 points over 50 games this season. He's also maintained an excellent plus-13 rating. Like Copp and his other linemate, Fischer, the lanky Rasmussen is also an effective penalty killer. Rasmussen's career-high goals came two seasons ago when he notched 15 in 80 games. Last season, he recorded ten goals and 29 points over 56 games.

Last but not least, Christian Fischer. Fischer, 26, signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings this past summer worth $1.1 million. Although he hasn't shown the point production he had in the past, he's become an essential part of this rejuvenated third line. Fischer is good on the forecheck and loves to throw his body around. He's scored just two goals and totaled nine points in 47 games this season but is a plus-9, averaging just over 11 minutes per game. Since being promoted from the fourth line, he's complimented Copp and Rasmussen well over the past few weeks. Since the promotion, he's averaged over 14 minutes per night and over 15 through his last three games heading into the All-Star break. The 6-foot-2 former Windsor Spitfire hasn't been able to generate the same type of offensive production he did last season when he totaled 13 goals and 27 points for Arizona. Still, he's willing to do a lot of the necessary dirty work required for a team to be successful.

Lalonde recently praised Fischer's attention to detail and overall impact. “He’s been unbelievable,” coach Derek Lalonde said. “The attention to detail, to his game … he forechecks. That line has been great. He gets guys touches, but he does things right all the time. For a lineup that was searching for some detail in the game, he does it. “That’s a good example for the whole group. And he’s energetic. The old cliché, a locker room guy, and he’s the epitome of it. Everyone is going to talk about our success this year with some of the players we acquired, but he’s a quiet one what was a really good job by our management team and a really nice piece.”