DETROIT – It’s expected that Alexey Marchenko will be the fifth Red Wings’ rookie – and the first with the nickname ‘Killer’ – to make his NHL debut this season when Detroit takes on the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Arena Saturday night.
Standing 6-foot-2 and 212 pound, Marchenko is already an imposing figure on the ice, but it was during a more relaxing sport that the Moscow native earned the moniker.
“We took him fishing with us in Traverse City,” Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “He’s a good fisherman. His nickname is Killer.”
Invited to go fly fishing for salmon last September, Marchenko was credited with catching the largest fish in the group that included Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.
“Honestly, I’m not a big fisherman. I like it with all of the nature all around, but it was a great time during the camp,” said Marchenko, who caught a 26-28 pound salmon.
“I caught one, but it was the biggest one in the group at the end when it started to get dark,” he said. “I think it was about 12-13 kilos.”
Marchenko has already caught the attention of the Red Wings and the coaching staff.
“I haven’t seen him play that much, but I saw some of him in camp,” Zetterberg said. “He’s a big guy, a right-handed shot and he plays well so it’s going to be fun to see what he can do up here.
“He is a good skater and sees the ice very well and just because he’s a big guy makes it so much easier to see the ice.”
Marchenko, who was picked in the seventh round of the 2011 NHL draft, will replace defenseman Danny DeKeyser, who suffered a groin injury midway through Wednesday’s Winter Classic in Ann Arbor.
DeKeyser did not practice with the Wings at City Sports Arena and Friday but he didn’t rule himself out for Saturday’s game either.
“It’s just a day-to-day thing,” the rookie defenseman said. “Took the day off from skating today and then see how it feels tomorrow morning.”
Meanwhile, Wings coach Mike Babcock has heard rave reviews from Grand Rapids on Marchenko, who has two goals and 16 points with a plus-15 rating in 33 AHL games with the Griffins.
“I don’t know much about him, he played in the KHL, so he’s a real good player, he had a good camp,” Babcock said. “Every time I call down to Grand Rapids they say he’s their best guy. If you do well down there you get an opportunity here. It’s like anybody, you come up and try to make a case for yourself that you can stay, so that’s the opportunity he’s been given by the guys getting injured.”
Marchenko, who turned 22 on Thursday, logged 82 games in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League before his arrival in North America four months ago. He and Datsyuk were teammates with CSKA Moscow during the lockout last season.
“Last year I was playing with CSKA during the lockout and I got to know him a little bit,” Marchenko said. “It helps a little bit because I already know him. So it was great to go fishing with those guys who are great guys even off of the ice.”
Marchenko will start his NHL career paired with veteran defensemen Kyle Quincey against the Stars, Babcock said.
“He’s a heavy guy,” Babcock said. “Evidently he can really make plays coming out of his own zone. He defends well. He’s a heavy guy, doesn’t seem to mind the heavy going.”
ON THE ROAD: While the Red Wings officially opened the second half of the NHL schedule on Wednesday, they really need to get cranking in the next five games away from Joe Louis Arena, concluding with the Jan. 16 game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
“Huge road trip for us,” Babcock said. “We got five games against good teams. I thought we played a real good game the other night and didn’t score enough goals. We have to continue to play well defensively.”
The Red Wings are one of the best road teams in the league this season. They are ranked fifth with a 12-4-3 record away from The Joe, where they have produced one of the worst home marks at 6-10-7.
“We’ve obviously played a lot better on the road than at home,” forward Daniel Cleary said. “It’s weird how that goes sometimes. We’ve got a really good team. We’ve got to get playing. We’re 41 or 42 games into the season, we all know where we sit in the standings. It’s a huge road trip against some talented teams that are very good. It’ll be a good trip for us.”
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