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Detroit – Mike Babcock and his staff haven't ventured too deeply yet into how much different the Pittsburgh Penguins look.

Grand Haven native Dan Bylsma was replaced by Mike Johnston behind the Penguins bench, and there have been some changes on the roster.

But the way Babcock sees it, the Penguins aren't too different because of two players: "I just know when you have (Evgeni) Malkin and (Sidney) Crosby and the crew they have out there, it's not a bad start."

Crosby had nine points (four goals) in his first four games. Malkin had seven points (five assists). Newcomer Patric Hornqvist had eight points (four goals), while playing mainly with Crosby.

As usual, the Penguins are hardly struggling to produce offense and score goals. They lead the NHL in goals per game at 4.0.

The coaching staff is different, and maybe they've tweaked a few things, but with Crosby and Malkin around, the Penguins remain one of the league's most dangerous teams.

"Every year they produce a lot of points," said Pavel Datsyuk, who has played on numerous Russian national teams with Malkin. "They play well and they are always dangerous. They make things happen. It's a good test for us. It should be a good game."

Said Niklas Kronwall: "Malkin and Crosby are absolutely two of the best guys in the world. It's always a big challenge when you play them.

"The drive they have, the determination, rarely do they quit on a play. They want more, and they want to be better each day. That's something that really stands out about them."

Change of plans

Because of Tuesday's overtime game in Montreal, then a later flight and still having to pass customs, most Red Wings didn't get into their homes until approximately 2:30 a.m.

So Babcock had a decision to make: Practice or stay off the ice?

Babcock decided to have the players work off-ice, including some special teams meetings, rather than a full-scale on-ice practice.

"I want energy (Thursday)," Babcock said. "I didn't know what was right for sure. We wanted to clear up a lot of our game, so we had meetings.

"We dealt with the power play a little bit. We felt we can score a lot better by being harder (to play against)."

The Penguins hosted Philadelphia Wednesday. The Red Wings hope the time off the ice could preserve some needed energy against a tired opponent.

Ice chips

Jimmy Howard, coming off arguably his best game of the season, even in defeat, will get the start against Pittsburgh.

… Daniel Cleary has yet to play this season. Being an extra forward is a role Cleary hasn't had before, but Babcock said Cleary must ready.

"He just has to keep working hard," Babcock said. "It's not an easy job, but it's the job he has right now and he's been fine. He works hard and he's a good pro.

"We come in each and every day and try to put the guys out there that give us the best opportunity."

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

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Penguins at Red Wings

When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Joe Louis Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD / 97.1-FM

Notable: Pittsburgh entered action Wednesday with the league's best power play (8-for-17, 47.1 percent) while the Red Wings had the best penalty kill, 18-for-18. … This is the only trip to Detroit for the Penguins, while the Red Wings go to Pittsburgh twice.

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