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Stuart proven to be a worthy investment

Tuesday, 05.26.2009 / 3:49 PM ET / Features
By Brian Compton  - Staff Writer
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Stuart proven to be a worthy investment
DETROIT -- One may have thought it was a steep price to pay when Red Wings GM Ken Holland sent second- and fourth-round draft picks to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for defenseman Brad Stuart on Feb. 26, 2008.

It's hard to believe there's anyone left out there who still feels that way.

It was Stuart who was relied upon the most heavily when the Wings were surprised to learn on Sunday that Nicklas Lidstrom would be unable to participate in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals due to a lower-body injury. Skating alongside Niklas Kronwall, Stuart logged more than 26 minutes of ice time and was a plus-2 in Detroit's 6-1 win against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center.

Lidstrom did not skate Tuesday morning at Joe Louis Arena and is questionable for Game 5 Wednesday night (7:30 p.m. EDT, VERSUS, CBC, RDS), when the Wings aim to earn a return trip to the Stanley Cup finals. Should Lidstrom be unable to go, at least the Wings know they have someone who can help fill the void.

"Stewie's been a horse for us, game after game, shift after shift," Kronwall told on Tuesday. "He's working so hard out there, doing all the little things right. He's a leader by example out there. We're happy to have him."

The feeling is mutual. With less than two months remaining in the 2007-08 regular season, Stuart's Kings were in last place in the NHL. A trade to Detroit obviously changed everything -- a trade that Wings goalie Chris Osgood felt was necessary if Detroit was going to win it all.

"Stewie's one of those quiet guys. If you interviewed him, it'd be real tough to even get anything out of him, so I'll say it for him," said Osgood, who has recovered from dehydration and is good to go for Game 5. "He's just a good, all-around player. He does everything real well. When we need him most, he's always been there for us. Without him, I don't think we would have won last year."

On Tuesday, Stuart wasn't interested in receiving the bulk of the credit for what transpired some 48 hours earlier in Chicago. While no defenseman or forward was on the ice more in Game 4, the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder believed Detroit's entire blue line corps stepped up in that impressive victory.

"That was a group effort from the six guys in the lineup," Stuart said. "Obviously, you're not going to replace Nick and what he can do. Each one of us just takes a little extra responsibility and maybe a couple of more minutes. We've all kind of had to do it before, whether it was here or somewhere else."

Perhaps that's why Stuart managed to spend nearly half of Game 4 on the ice. While that might take its toll on some players, Stuart said he felt fine on the flight back to Detroit Sunday night.

"It's easier to play with the lead than it is behind," Stuart said. "I think as a group, we were kind of able to play smart and reserve ourselves a little bit as opposed to trying to play catch-up. I think we all feel pretty good."

After a five-goal victory, it's easy to understand why. It truly was remarkable considering the Wings were forced to play without the likes of Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and veteran forward Kris Draper. Still, Stuart brushed aside any thought of Detroit patting itself on the back after handling Chicago the way it did.

"The way we looked at it, we won the game," Stuart said. "It doesn't really matter how many goals we won by or, in the same vein, how many goals we lose by. We won the game and that's all that matters. We move on from that. We don't get too high on ourselves because we won by however many goals. We just move on. A win's a win, and at this point in the season, it doesn't matter by how much."

What matters is that the Red Wings continue to execute their game plan, which mainly consists of puck possession and limiting the opposition's opportunities. Whether or not Lidstrom is back for Game 5 to help chip in, the Wings can take a deep breath and know there's still more than enough on the blue line to win games.

And in these playoffs, Stuart -- who has 1 goal, 6 assists and a plus-8 rating this postseason -- has proven that time and time again.

"I think he's just getting better and better," Kronwall said. "I don't think I've ever seen him play better. He's doing it all for us. He's huge on the PK. Playing that many minutes, the way he does, that's a tough job. But he's doing a great job for us."




1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


H. Zetterberg 82 13 37 -15 50
P. Datsyuk 66 16 33 7 49
D. Larkin 80 23 22 11 45
T. Tatar 81 21 24 4 45
G. Nyquist 82 17 26 -2 43
J. Abdelkader 82 19 23 -16 42
M. Green 74 7 28 -6 35
B. Richards 68 10 18 4 28
D. Helm 77 13 13 -2 26
N. Kronwall 64 3 23 -21 26
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80