DETROIT – Brendan Smith knows what to expect from Edmonton’s Justin Schultz when the former University of Wisconsin standouts face-off for the first time as NHL rookie defensemen on Thursday night.
Like he was at Wisconsin, Schultz has been a huge part of the Oilers power play success this year, ranking among top league and rookie leaders in many categories, including first in PP points (10) and goals (4). He has points in five of the last eight games.
“I’ll text him every once in a while and tell him to slow down in points because he’s making me look bad,” Smith said. “Schultzy ran our power play in Wisconsin in my junior year and he was my roommate on the road, so I was pretty close to Schultzy.”
The Oilers will bring their sixth rated power play to Joe Louis Arena for the second and final time this season. Edmonton dropped a 2-1 decision at Detroit on Feb. 9.
Thursday’s game will be the first time the two friends will face in the NHL. The last time Edmonton was in town Smith was on injured reserve with a shoulder sprain. The two did play against one another in the AHL during the NHL lockout.
Schultz is the third former Badgers’ teammate that Smith will face in the NHL. He played against the Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan last March at Madison Square Garden.
“I have played against all of them, except Schultzy and Cody Goloubef,” Smith said. “Cody was just called up and we have Columbus on Saturday and Sunday, so if he’s still up it will be cool to play against him, because he was my roommate in college.”
Smith and Schultz bring similar attributes to their teams with incredible offensive instincts and mobility, and plenty of upside. Smith credits the Badgers’ coaching staff for encouraging their defensemen to think offense while being defensively responsible.
“We were just taught as freshmen to play the right way,” Smith said. “We did a lot of stuff that would help our ability to get better offensively, like having a good stick, a good pivot, how to block shots. All of that stuff helped us and put is in good position to play offensively.
“But the biggest thing we talked about when we were in school was the better you played defensively, the better position you’ll be for offense. That’s how we learned and everybody ended up succeeded that way.”
Schultz was one of the most-pursued offseason free agents, but the former two-time WCHA defensive player of the year ultimately followed his heart in picking the Oilers, Smith said.
“Some people were talking to me about maybe convincing him come here, but I think the biggest thing was for him to do his own thing,” Smith said. “Home is a huge thing for him, because his parents can come watch, and you always want your parents to come watch. … Just the situation, he’s going to play a ton in the organization and on their power play. As you see he’s doing that now, so I think that’s good for him.”
PLAYER TO WATCH
RW MIKE BROWN – The Oilers traded for some extra toughness this week when they made a deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs for the 27-year-old enforcer. Brown meet his new team in Columbus on Tuesday after being acquired for the Oilers’ fourth-round pick in the 2014 NHL draft. … The former University of Michigan forward is the seventh player in Oilers’ history to wear jersey No. 13, joining Cam Barker, Andrew Cogliano, Todd Harvey, German Titov, Ken Linseman and Risto Jalo. Brown is currently tied for third in fighting majors with six bouts this season. Of his 65 career regular-season fights, Brown has one against Detroit, a tussle with Darren McCarty in Nov. 2008. Brown fought Kent Huskins in a pre-season game when the Red Wings’ defenseman was playing in Anaheim in Sept. 2007. … In 12 games, Brown has one assists and 70 minutes in penalties.
Season Series: 1-0-0
2011-12 Season Series: 3-0-1
All-Time Series Season: 57-36-13-11
Edmonton’s Season Record: 8-9-4
Top Scorer vs. Red Wings: Sam Gagner – 4 Goals, 2 Assists in 4 Games.
Red Wings’ Top Scorer – Henrik Zetterberg – 1 Goal, 7 Assists in 5 games.
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
Tickets to this game and all 9 remaining regular-season contests at The Joe are currently available for purchase at the JLA box office (313-396-7575), all Ticketmaster (800-745-3000) outlets, and online at DetroitRedWings.com.
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