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Defensive future is bright for Red Wings

Holland, Babcock like defensive talent on roster, in system

Saturday, 03.30.2013 / 4:53 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - DetroitRedWings.com
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Defensive future is bright for Red Wings

DETROIT – To the critics and naysayers, who forecasted the demise of the Red Wings’ defense after legendary Nicklas Lidstrom retired, coach Mike Babcock has news for them.

“We think we’re re-tooling it,” he said. “Kenny (Holland) tells me that we have some kids coming too.”

It’s not that the Red Wings didn’t like where they were defensively, but an abundance of injuries left the team without knowing exactly what they had. Now, the Wings appear to be healthy again and have been able to roll out the same defensive pairings over the last couple of weeks.

The consistency, as well as the growth of such youngsters as Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith and the unexpected rise of Brian Lashoff, has the Red Wings feeling good about their chances of reaching the playoffs for the 22nd consecutive spring.

Certainly, general manager Ken Holland was ecstatic that undrafted free agent defenseman Danny DeKeyser decided to stay close to his boyhood home and commit to the Red Wings. But the former Western Michigan standout isn’t the only reason Holland is smiling more these days.

“When training camp started in September, we weren’t really sure on Brian Lashoff,” he said. “All of a sudden through injuries he gets an opportunity and has done a great job. Brendan Smith, we knew was going to be on the team, but he’s getting better all the time. Certainly, Jakub Kindl’s been a great story for us. He’s a guy that’s paid his dues and with Lidstrom and (Brian) Rafalski and (Brad) Stuart and (Niklas) Kronwall and (Jonathan) Ericsson he really hasn’t had much of an opportunity. Now with opportunity he’s taken it and run.”

DeKeyser, who played the last three seasons at Western Michigan University, adds more depth to the Red Wings’ blue line that already features Kyle Quincey, Ian White, Carlo Colaiacovo, Ericsson, Kornwall, Kindl, Smith and Lashoff.

Colaiacovo, who missed most of the season with a shoulder injury, is currently with the Grand Rapids Griffins on a conditioning assignment, and Kent Huskins was traded to Philadelphia on Saturday, thus making room for DeKeyser on the 23-man roster.

“Getting Danny is a real good deal for us, but we’ve got Lash, and we’ve got Smitty, and Kindl’s a kid too,” Babcock said. “It’s not like Kronwall and E and these guys are old either. Quinc isn’t old, so it’s a real good situation for our team.”

It’s not just the current roster, either, that that the Red Wings are excited about. Detroit holds the rights to several other top defensemen around the world, including St. Cloud State junior Nick Jensen, a fifth-round pick in 2009, who was named WCHA defenseman of the year in a vote of 12 league coaches.

“One of the best defensemen of the Quebec Junior League is Xavier Ouellet, the leading scoring defenseman in the OHL is Ryan Sproul,” Holland said. “We’ve got a couple guys in Europe, (Alexei) Marchenko and (Mattias) Backman, so, it appears we’ve got some defensemen on the horizon and we’ve got some young guys on the team.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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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