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Wings' Smith learns hard lesson

A healthy scratch the last two games, D-man will play vs. Sharks

Wednesday, 04.10.2013 / 3:04 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - DetroitRedWings.com
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Wings\' Smith learns hard lesson

Brendan Smith
Defense - DET
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 5
SOG: 30 | +/-: -1
DETROIT Brendan Smith loves this time of year. And he’ll love it even more now that he’s head back to the Red Wings’ lineup.

“I love the pressure, to be truthfully honest. I love when it gets down to crunch time and playoff hockey,” said Smith, who will be reinserted into the lineup when the Red Wings host the San Jose Sharks on Thursday at Joe Louis Arena.

Smith was a healthy scratch for the last two games. It’s the first time at any level that he’s sat-out this long in his career without being injured, he said.

Smith was pulled from the lineup last Friday when rookie free agent defenseman Danny DeKeyser made his NHL debut at Colorado. Smith was a healthy scratch again for the Wings’ 1-0 loss to St. Louis on Sunday.

Coach Mike Babcock said he wants Smith to be more defensively responsible.

“I just wanted the puck looked after better,” Babcock said. “He’s a better player than that. He’s had a few days to watch and think about it. I think Smitty is an ultra-competitive guy, who has a huge upside, but he’s just got to take care of the puck better.”

Smith will replace veteran defenseman Ian White in Thursday’s lineup, Babcock said.

With nine defensemen on the roster, Babcock has the luxury of sitting healthy guys as he sees fit. With back to back games last week, the Wings’ coach made a wholesale change, swapping out three defensemen who played the first night in Phoenix for three fresh bodies in Colorado.

While Smith certainly understands the reasoning for his benching, it still came as quite a surprise, he said.

“I think I’ve been playing pretty well, so it gets a little frustrating when you’re not in the lineup. I think that’s for anybody,” he said. “We’re all competitive players, competitive people, so we want to be in the lineup. There are things that everybody’s got to work on, but for myself as a young player, there’s a lot more. … But definitely, (it) caught me off guard.

“There’s always things that I have to work on, so I think just what I’ve been doing in practice, which is working hard, making a first good pass, not trying to get too complicated. Things have to get better, just making my game a little more simple and I guess playing the Nicklas Lidstrom way: See the first pass, make it.”

In 26 games this season, Smith has produced five assists and has a minus-1 rating while averaging nearly 19-minutes of ice-time per game. But in his last five games, he’s been a minus-5.

In fairness though, every Wings’ defensemen over the last two weeks – with the exception of White, who is a plus-1 – is on the negative side of the plus-minus rating.

“We have nine D and it’s really competitive,” Smith said. “You’ve just got to get back away from the game and kind of see what you have to do to get better and then do that in the practice and then once you get the chance, keep yourself in the lineup.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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  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