DETROIT – Jakub Kindl hasn’t registered a lot of power-play ice time in past seasons.
But there was something in his game Thursday that convinced the coaches to elevate the young defenseman to the special team’s first unit along side the Red Wings’ big guns.
“He plays a lot on our second unit, but we thought he was playing well so we put him on our first unit,” said coach Mike Babcock, following the Red Wings’ 3-2 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks at Joe Louis Arena
The third-year defenseman responded by netting his first career power-play goal, which at the time put Detroit up 2-1 – its only lead of the game – over the Sharks.
After the Sharks’ 6-foot-5 defenseman-turned-forward Brent Burns received a minor penalty for holding, Babcock sent Kindl out to play the right point opposite defenseman Niklas Kronwall, with forwards Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen up front.
“We needed a score and Babs made the decision then he put me out there with the first unit and it worked out well,” Kindl said. “I got it in a perfect position there and I think anyone could score from that angle.”
Kindl’s goal was set-up nicely by Zetterberg, who slid a pass into the slot where the Czech defenseman dropped down and rifled a one-timer behind San Jose goalie Antti Niemi at 2:29 of the third period.
Prior to this season, Kindl averaged just 47-seconds of power-play time in three partial seasons in a Red Wings’ uniform. This season, he’s logging the second-most power-play minutes among Red Wings’ defensemen, behind Niklas Kronwall, who averages 3:37 of ice-time per game.
Kindl now has four goals, which is his single-season best in the NHL, and the most he’s scored since netting six goals during the 2008-09 AHL season in Grand Rapids.
“Obviously it’s nice when you get the opportunity, but at the same time you have to do a good job, a great job, otherwise you won’t earn the minutes out there,” Kindl said. “So I’m just focusing, every time I go out there, just try to shoot the puck and try to create havoc in front of the net. … Whenever I have the chance I just have to shoot, that’s all, that’s what I’m focusing.”
Despite the loss, the Red Wings still managed to grab one-point in the Western Conference standings. They remain in the No. 8 seed, two-points behind Minnesota and two-points ahead of Phoenix.
The Red Wings now head out on a four-game road trip that behind Friday in Chicago before making stops in Nashville, Calgary and Vancouver next week.
“Two points would have been a lot better. But we got one point,” Zetterberg said. “We got a game tomorrow again. We just gotta go in and play (a) solid road game in Chicago and head off to Nashville.”
THREE STARS: 3, Logan Couture, SJS (1 goal); 2, Jimmy Howard, DET (28 saves, L); 1, Patrick Marleau, SJS (1 goal, SO goal).
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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