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Ericsson's excited for pairing with Nick

Big E has gained confidence with solid defense, penalty kill

Tuesday, 04.3.2012 / 6:25 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  -
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Ericsson\'s excited for pairing with Nick
Since returning from a fractured wrist, defenseman Jonathan Ericsson has impressed the Red Wings' coaches. (Photo by Dave Reginek)
The best indicator of a confident hockey player is usually increased ice-time. It’s even more impressive for a player just back from a 4 ½ week stint on the injury list.

In just his third game back from a fractured left wrist, Jonathan Ericsson has drawn high praise for stepping up his game, particularly on the penalty kill.
“He gets the puck out every time he has it,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He's a huge man. He eats up space. I think he's made a night and day difference.”

Even before Sunday’s 2-1 shootout win over Florida, Ericsson had caught Babcock’s attention, forcing the coach to juggle his defensive units, when he sat Ian White as a healthy scratch and paired Big E with captain Nicklas Lidstrom for the game against the Panthers. And Ericsson was rewarded with 23:26 of ice-time, the highest single-game total that he’s logged this season.

Now, some of his increased time came after defenseman Kyle Quincey was ejected for receiving a major elbowing penalty, but Babcock wouldn’t have counted on Ericsson if he didn’t feel confident on the 6-foot-4 Swede.

Even though Ericsson missed 13 games, his conditioning didn’t suffer as he managed to skate with the team in practices and morning skates. That alone gave him an advantage over players who have recently returned from lower body injuries, like Pavel Datsyuk (knee); Jimmy Howard (groin) and Lidstrom (ankle).

“Unlike the other guys that were injured he is quicker to get back because he skated the whole time,” Babcock said. “He could do stuff, whereas Pavel with his knee or Nick with his ankle or Howie with his groin, you haven't played hockey. So you got to get back. When you first get back you're tried after a little bit, you're worn down, you got to get that second wind and that energy in you so you can be what you're capable of being.”

Ericsson and Lidstrom will be paired again Wednesday when the Wings play the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center, Babcock said. White will be paired with Jakub Kindl, and Niklas Kronwall will work with Brad Stuart.

The Wings need to tighten up their defense, and getting Ericsson going will certainly be a big lift heading into the final three games of the regular-season and into the playoffs. And playing along side Lidstrom can’t hurt anyone’s confidence.

“This year I haven't played with him (much), of course it happens in the course of games we play with each other but not often,” Ericsson said. “More last year, and PK and earlier this year on PK as well.”

The biggest difference with playing along side Lidstrom will be going up against the opposition’s top forward lines, something Ericsson hasn’t faced consistently in his four NHL seasons.

“That's a challenge itself, too,” he said, “and it's always fun to be matched up against the top line. All of our D are trying to have the same mentality out there, don't throw away the puck too much. Nick does everything so well and creates time for you. I'm not nervous at all. It's just an honor to play with him and try to embrace that as a challenge of playing against other teams' top lines.”

A good sign for Ericsson was that he logged as much ice-time that he did Sunday and didn’t feel all that winded afterwards.

“The first game you get tired very quickly, second game as well,” he said. “This last game I felt good. I got a little tired at the end because we only had five defensemen in the third period. It's been a noticeable difference every game in how I feel in my legs and body.”

Whether or not he continues to be paired with a seven-time Norris Trophy winner into the playoffs, Ericsson wants to fine tune some things in the final three games this week. 

“It would be tough to jump right into a playoff game, those games are so intense and important,” he said. “So it's really good for me to get back and play a few games and get my confidence back a little bit and feel a little more comfortable out there.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose




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