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Jumbling the defense

Injuries force defensive adjustments vs. Coyotes

Thursday, 10.28.2010 / 1:37 PM ET / News
By Michael Caples  - Detroit Red Wings Staff Writer
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Jumbling the defense
DETROIT – When Brad Stuart came to the Red Wings in 2008, he had already played seven NHL seasons. But even he felt a little nervous the first time he played next to Nicklas Lidstrom.

“When I first got here, there was a game, I think it was in Columbus, where I played with him,” Stuart said of playing with the six-time Norris Trophy winner. “I don’t know what it was, I guess you feel a little bit more pressure, it’s hard to explain. I’m over it now, but at first…”

It’s a good thing that Stuart is over it now; he’s been paired up with the Wings’ captain once again. Coach Mike Babcock confirmed that the forward lines will stay intact Thursday when the Wings host Phoenix, but the defensive pairings have been shuffle with the injuries to Brian Rafalski and Jonathan Ericsson.

“The game plan coming out of training camp hasn’t worked out so well,” Stuart said, “but that’s the way it is. You get injuries, things happen, so you have to have the ability to change it up.”

Babcock said the Wings have been fortunate to only lose Justin Abdelkader up front, which has allowed him to keep the forward units together for the first month of the season.

“Obviously you’re getting to see a lot of things,” Babcock said about the pairings variations. “We haven’t had that with the forwards. We’ve been real fortunate that they’ve all been healthy, with the exception of Abby, who’s just coming back. So here we are, over the year there’s going to be lots of combinations on ‘D’, and up front, and we just have to find a way to make it all work.”

When asked about how players adapt to playing with superstars like Lidstrom, Babcock said that there is a learning curve.

“I think so for sure,” he said. “During the morning skate today, Abby went with (Henrik Zetterberg) twice and (Pavel Datsyuk) once, and Abby didn’t even think about taking a shot the whole time, didn’t matter if the guy was covered, he passed it to him. Why do you think that is? It’s not because they’re telling him to do that, that’s just the way it goes. ‘I’m supposed to give it to them’. That’s all part of becoming a good pro and figuring it all out.”

Stuart said that players feel added pressure to perform at their highest level when they are playing next to a player of Lidstrom’s stature.

“I guess you feel like there’s this expectation where you have to have the game of your life or else he’s going to be disappointed in you,” Stuart said. “That’s not the case, but that’s kind of how you feel when you first start.”

Babcock said he isn’t concerned about anyone who would be paired with the Wings’ captain.

“Well we haven’t had any trouble with anybody who’s played with Nick, ever,” Babcock said. “I don’t think that’s any surprise. But (Stuart) gives him a physical guy who can match-up and go get pucks for him, get over and make plays. It’s been good. I don’t know if that’s our best group when we get our six together that we envisioned playing at the start of the year, but it’s been a good pair for us at this point.”

When asked about what the pairings would be once all the defensemen are healthy, Babcock said he would like to pair Stuart with Rafalski, but he just has to work with who’s ready to play.

“I’m hoping to put him with Rafalski, but we’ll see,” Babcock said. “This fantasy we all have about when everyone’s healthy, it doesn’t really happen, so we’ll just keep plugging.”




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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
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

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
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
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80