DETROIT – Down three defensemen in the first week of the season, the Red Wings went shopping hours before Tuesday’s home opener and picked up an experienced blue liner to shore up the defense.
Kent Huskins arrived at Joe Louis Arena late in the afternoon with plenty of time to meet his new teammates and coaches before the six-year veteran and his new teammates hosted the Dallas Stars before a sold-out crowd at Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday night.
“I’m sure it’s going to be a process for the next few days, learning all the nuances and everything,” said Huskins, who signed a one-year contract. “I’m excited for it.”
Like rookie Brian Lashoff the night before in Columbus, Huskins was tossed to the fire almost immediately upon his arrive to the arena to help shore up a depleted defense that has now seen four defenses injured in the first three games of this condensed 48-game season.
Unfortunately, the Stars got two goals from forward Michael Ryder and goalie Kari Lehtonen made 39 saves in helping Dallas spoil the Red Wings’ home opener, 2-1.
With Jakub Kindl (groin), Jonathan Ericsson (hip) and Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder) sidelined this week, Huskins’ signing was necessary for the Wings, who needed to find veteran help, and find it quickly.
For Huskins, who was on a professional tryout with the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals since last week, Tuesday was going to be a practice day as he still got used to his new minor-league teammates. But then hen got an 8 a.m. phone call from his agent, who told him Detroit had offered him a one-year deal.
“I went over to the rink and grabbed my gear in Norfolk and packed up my stuff in the hotel and headed to the airport,” said Huskins, who played in 299 NHL games with Anaheim, San Jose and St. Louis. “Flew out, landed, rented a car and came here, and just met the guys and we went.”
Kindl and Ericsson are day to day, but Colaiacovo could be out of the lineup for 3-4 weeks. And to make matters worse, veteran defenseman Ian White suffered a cut to his left leg. After the game, he drove himself to the Detroit Medical Center to be checked out. But the severity of his injury, or what time he’ll miss, is unclear.
Despite logging the least amount of ice-time (15:16) among the Wings’ six defensemen, Huskins turned in a steady performance and recorded a pair of blocked shots – one each against the Dallas Stars’ forwards Michael Ryder and Eric Nystrom.
“I wasn’t expecting it to be perfect, that’s for sure. But as a pro you have responsibility to bring the best that you have that night. That’s all I was trying to focus on. The legs, I haven’t been on the ice for a few days, so the skills were a little shoddy, I guess you can say, but definitely as it went on and got a feel for the systems that they play here I felt comfortable.”
Even with a patchwork defense, coach Mike Babcock was satisfied with their collective effort.
“I thought (Huskins) was really good. I thought he passed the puck,” Babcock said. “I thought Lashoff was outstanding. I thought (Brendan Smith) was good. To me, our defense, you can talk about our defense, our forwards turned more pucks over than our D tonight to get us in trouble.”
The Red Wings committed 15 turnovers Tuesday, with a third made by defensemen.
Asked how tough it was to jumped into the lineup on such short notice, Huskins put a positive spin on his answer.
“I really don’t want to put any negative connotations, because this is the further thing from it,” he said. “I was really totally excited when I got the call this morning, so there’s nothing tough about it. It was all good stuff today.”
NOTEBOOK: Following Tuesday’s game, the Red Wings reassigned goalie Tom McCollum and forward Gustav Nyquist to the club’s minor-league affiliate in Grand Rapids. The Griffins’ pair had been called up to fill in for backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson and forward Mikael Samuelsson, both of whom have groin injuries. … The Red Wings’ next game is Friday when they host the Minnesota Wild. It’s expected that center Darren Helm (back), forward Todd Bertuzzi (flu) and Kindl will all be available for that game.
THREE STARS: 3, Jimmy Howard, DET (30 saves); 2, Kari Lehtonen, DAL (39 saves); 1, Michael Ryder, DAL (2 goals).
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