DETROIT – The third time was enough for Brendan Smith.
The Red Wings’ rookie defenseman missed 11 games this season following a hard hit by eight-year center Derek MacKenzie. But Smith wasn’t about to turn the other cheek on Sunday afternoon when the Columbus center tried to deliver a high hit behind the Red Wings’ net early in the third period.
“Sometimes he’s just running around a bit, so I tried to do a good job of protecting myself,” Smith said. “There’s a line, and he crossed it, so that’s when I got frustrated.”
Smith chased MacKenzie to the blue line before the two dropped their gloves. Smith was the aggressor and obviously upset as he landed several punches. It was Smith’s second career fighting major. He fought Chicago’s Andrew Shaw last season.
While Smith said there’s no real history with MacKenzie, where was a questionable incident back on Jan. 21 when the Blue Jackets’ center sent the rookie into the end boards.
“I actually got hit from behind by him in our first game in Columbus,” Smith recalled. “Second game of the year I got hit from behind our net.”
There was nothing dirty about MacKenzie’s hit that sprained Smith’s right shoulder on Feb. 2. But clearly, Smith was seeking a little pay back when he recognized that MacKenzie came in high in Sunday’s game.
“I knew before he came to hit me, and then he kind of got his hands up,” Smith said. “He came in and he was kind of running his mouth and stuff, and whatever. I didn’t like it anymore so it was pretty mutual.”
Asked if he thought MacKenzie has targeted him this season, Smith said, “Probably not. It’s just situational, but I definitely got hit from behind and went face-first into the glass" on Jan. 21.
Smith is known more as a quality puck-mover with incredible offensive upside than he is for his fists. But he said Sunday if he’s pushed, he’ll push back.
“I won’t shy away from it but I never look for it,” said Smith, who had 11 bouts in three seasons with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins. “I want to play. I want to be a player and contribute. I feel that this year has been a little tough for me to contribute. Obviously right now you see my points. It’s a little frustrating that the puck won’t go in the back of the net. But I won’t shy away from it and if somebody tries to jump me, I’ll answer the bell.”
The Red Wings finished their five-game season series against the Blue Jackets on Sunday, with Columbus earning a 3-2 shootout victory.
For whatever reason, the Jackets have been a thorn for the Red Wings in winning their first season-series in their 12-year franchise history, posting a 4-0-1 record. The Wings’ lone win came in a shootout at Columbus on Jan. 21.
On Sunday, the Red Wings had 16 giveaways, which led to several Jackets’ scoring chances.
“I think a lot of our passes weren’t tape-to-tape,” Smith said. “If you’re not connecting passes and it’s just giveaways then obviously they’re going to dump and chase. That’s their game. (They) get in and muck it down low and play hard, and try to jam it to the net. If we’re connecting we have possession of the puck and they can’t do that.”
THREE STARS: 3, Jack Johnson, CBJ (29:51 TOI); 2, Pavel Datsyuk, DET (1 assist); 1, R.J. Umberger, CBJ (1 goal).
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