DETROIT – The Red Wings placed veteran forward Patrick Eaves on waivers Thursday morning.
The move was necessary to clear cap space for the return of defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, who will be in the Red Wings’ lineup Friday night against the Washington Capitals.
Ericsson has missed 10 games with a separated shoulder that was sustained in Phoenix on Oct. 19.
The 29-year-old Eaves is in the last year of a three-year contract with the Red Wings. NHL clubs have until noon Friday to make a clear on Eaves. If he clears, the Wings would then assign him to Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League.
“It’s a business decision,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Obviously, Patty Eaves is a real good play, a real good person, does everything right. We haven’t been able to give him an opportunity here to play enough and he wants to be in the lineup every night and he should be he’s a good enough player.”
In his time as a fourth-line grinder with the Wings, Eaves has produced 27 goals and 24 assists in 175 games.
He missed most of the 2011-12 season dealing with a broken jaw and post-concussion symptoms after he was struck in the face by a shot from Nashville defenseman Roman Josi on Nov. 26.
Eaves returned to the lineup last season and registered two goals and six assists was a healthy scratch 13 times. This season he’s appeared in just three games with six hits and four shots on goal.
Eaves is the third veteran placed on waivers by the Red Wings this season. Center Cory Emmerton and forward Jordin Tootoo were also waived. Tootoo and rookie defenseman Xavier Ouellet were sent to Grand Rapids following the Red Wings’ practice at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday morning.
Eaves knows he falls victim to an over abundance of forwards in Detroit. Still, he managed to put a positive spin on things.
“You got to look at everything as an opportunity," he said, "so hopefully I get picked up and play somewhere.”
BIG E’S RETURN: Without Ericsson in the lineup the last 10 games, the Red Wings spiraled to a 3-2-5 record.
Still, Babcock believes that Ericsson’s absence helped with the individual growth of some of the youngsters.
“I thought we did a lot of good things without him,” Babcock said. “It was really good for the development of (Danny) DeKeyser because he’s gotten a much bigger role and more ice time. Now he’ll continue to get the ice time so that’s a positive thing. This will give us two really solid pairs. We can move (Jakub) Kindl to the three pair so we can now really move the puck. I think this just gives us a better team.”
Ericsson has a goal and two assists in nine games, but it’s his big minutes on the penalty kill and his 22-plus minutes of ice-time per game that has Kronwall excited to see his D-partner back in the fold.
“He’s someone that I feel very comfortable out there (with) and he means a lot to this team,” Kronwall said. “He’s huge for us on the PK and just in the 5-on-5 play as well. He’s very solid and always plays big minutes for us, and he plays in big situations, anytime there’s a big PK coming up or the end of the game, he’s out there for us, so he means a lot to this team.”
LINE CHANGE: After being a healthy scratch in Tuesday’s shootout loss to Winnipeg, Daniel Cleary will return to the third line Friday against the Capitals. The veteran forward will take the spot of rookie Tomas Tatar, who has played in the last 10 games. But he is no points with a minus-3 rating in his last four contests.
“When I looked at our lineup yesterday I thought that was a spot I felt we could have been better so (Tatar) gets an opportunity to watch,” Babcock said. “He’ll get back in. I thought Samuelsson was good, had lots of opportunities to score last game so I’m leaving him back in.”
UGLY STREAK: It was 24 years ago this month that the Red Wings last went seven straight games without a home win. It’s a streak that the current players don’t wish to equal. Detroit has an opportunity to snap a six-game home winless skid Friday against Washington.
“We want to be back winning as soon as possible, of course, starting here tomorrow,” Kronwall said. “I thought last game was a step in the right direction. I thought we played pretty decent for 60 minutes. We kept going and kept going and kept going and didn’t let up. It didn’t matter if they scored or not, we kept going the same way and that’s what we have to do every game. If we can keep doing that then we’ll be in good shape.”
During the 1989-90 season, Detroit experienced a 0-4-2-1 home skid, and finished in last-place in the five-team Norris Division. The Wings didn’t qualify for the playoffs, thus ending the four-year coaching tenure of Jacques Demers, who had won the Jack Adams Award, as the league’s coach of the year, in his first two seasons in Detroit.
INJURY UPDATES: Defenseman Brendan Smith (shoulder) skated in practice Thursday and went through some contact drills, but he will not play against the Capitals.
“I’ve seen the doc a few times,” Smith said. “I’ve been able to do everything so I don’t know yet.”
Center Stephen Weiss, who suffered a groin injury against Dallas last Thursday, skated on his own before practice. He hopes to begin practicing with the team next week.
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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