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Defensemen quietly producing for Wings

Bottom four have produced against the Blackhawks

Saturday, 05.25.2013 / 6:59 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com
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Defensemen quietly producing for Wings
Carlo Colaiacovo has been a steady replacement in his role on the Red Wings' defense, producing five hits and three blocked shots in the series against Chicago. (Photo by Getty Images)

CHICAGO – There will always be injuries, it’s just the nature of the sport. However, the Red Wings had an exorbitant number of injuries in the regular season, especially to the bottom four defensive corps.

Now it’s that group of players that have quietly produced against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference semifinals, which the Red Wings could close out tonight with a win in Game 5 at the United Center.

“This year we had a lot of injuries,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “A lot of guys have been in and out of the lineup. When they got the call to play they’ve been doing a good job, here in the playoffs as well.”

The defensive pairings of Brendan Smith and Kyle Quincey, and Carlo Colaiacovo and Jakub Kindl have done a yeoman’s job against the Blackhawks, collectively producing two game-winning goals with 20 hits, 19 blocked shots and a plus-6 rating.

“They’ve been great for us, really providing us some solid defense,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “Kept it simple, making the right plays, making the right decisions out there.”

While Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson provide stability on the back end and give the Red Wings good matchups against top-line opponents, the bottom four guys have gained consistency over time.

“Quincey’s really kind of settled in, and Smith has gotten better for us this year, and Kindl has some good offensive skill and has played better,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Carlo who has been unavailable to us pretty much all year has played much better once (Danny) DeKeyser got hurt, and got an opportunity to go every day. So it’s been a work-in-progress on the back end. We struggled to move the puck early in the year and we’ve gotten better at it. … We’ve done a pretty good job in this series.”

All four D-men spent time on the injury list during the regular season, but none more than Colaiacovo, who missed 42 games with a separated shoulder sustained in the second game of the season at Columbus.

Tonight, Colaiacovo will play in his seventh postseason game with the Red Wings, which is one more game than he played in during the season. His contributions were necessary when DeKeyser went down with an injury in Game 2 of the Anaheim series, and Brian Lashoff wasn’t efficient as his replacement.

Injuries have peppered Colaiacovo’s career, a severe concussion followed by knee surgery, then this season with the shoulder problems. In the last eight seasons, the Toronto native has averaged 47 games played.

“It’s never fun to be in that situation,” he said of his injuries. “You play hockey to play the game. Those were tough times. I battled through it, kept myself ready had a positive attitude, worked really hard every day and just kept being a great teammate. Now I’m getting an opportunity. There is never a better feeling in the world, this is when you want to be playing hockey this time of the year.”

In September, Colaiacovo signed a two-year contract with the Red Wings, his third NHL club. He said his main reason for picking the Original Six franchise over a few other options was for the chance to make a long run in the playoffs. He’s gotten his wish, and the Wings have capable blue-liner playing mistake-free hockey in the last six games.

“Ever since he came in, he’s a really good puck-moving defenseman,” Kronwall said. “At the same time he’s solid in our own end. He’s doing everything that’s asked of him and more. So he’s been great for us.”

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 PLAYOFFS
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
T. Tatar 5 0 3 1 3
M. Green 5 1 1 -1 2
A. Athanasiou 5 1 0 1 1
G. Nyquist 5 1 0 2 1
H. Zetterberg 5 1 0 3 1
J. Abdelkader 5 1 0 -3 1
B. Richards 5 1 0 -4 1
D. Helm 5 1 0 -1 1
D. Larkin 5 1 0 -2 1
N. Kronwall 5 0 1 3 1
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 1 2 0 .945 1.36
J. Howard 0 2 0 .891 3.59