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Rookie Ouellet to make playoff debut

Babcock disputes published report that Howard has a concussion

Saturday, 04.26.2014 / 2:03 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com
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Rookie Ouellet to make playoff debut
Rookie defenseman Xavier Ouellet finished the AHL season with four goals and 17 points for the Grand Rapids Griffins. He will make his Stanley Cup playoffs in Game 5 of the Red Wings' first-round series against Boston. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

BOSTON – Saying his team needs more punch along the blue line, coach Mike Babcock has decided that rookie defenseman Xavier Ouellet will make his Stanley Cup playoff debut when the Red Wings face elimination in their best-of-seven game series with the Boston Bruins.

“I just like that he’s a good player and we needed a change on the back, so to be honest with you we haven’t spent enough time watching him play and knowing,” Babcock said. “He’s been better when he’s played with us than he has been in the American League. He’s a real smart player, he’s played well when he’s been up, we like him. So, we’re making the change because we felt we needed to make the change.”

The 20-year-old Ouellet will replace Jakub Kindl in the Game 5 lineup and likely be paired with Brian Lashoff on the third defensive pairing.

Ouellet was recalled from Grand Rapids earlier in the week to fill in at practice Wednesday when veteran defenseman Niklas Kronwall’s girlfriend went into labor with the couple’s first child.

Ouellet will be the sixth Red Wings players to make his postseason debut in this series, joining backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson and rookie forwards Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco and Luke Glendening.

“It always feels good, every time you receive that call,” Ouellet said following Wednesday’s practice. “I feel really excited. It's an amazing feeling to receive that call, especially at this time of year. It's playoff time so it's exciting.”

It’s helped that Ouellet made his Red Wings’ debut in October and was called up two more times before this recent recall.

“For sure, all the players know me,” Ouellet said. “It's not new anymore. It's still really impressive but for sure it helps.”

Other lineup changes include Daniel Alfredsson who returns after missing the last two games with lower back pain. He replaces Todd Bertuzzi on the second line with center Darren Helm and forward Johan Franzen.

Alfredsson played in the first two games of the series with no points and an even rating. When healthy, the Red Wings have benefited from Alfredsson’s shot as a right-handed sniper, particularly on the power play, which is 1-for-13 in the series.

“I mean the player has to be healthy enough to skate. We talk about leadership, leadership is, I mean, saying the right things is important, but playing right is way more important,” Babcock said. “If you can’t skate you can’t play. So we’ve gone through this for a while. Any of these back injuries where they get the shooting pain down their legs it makes it hard for you to skate. And when you’re a little bit concerned and you don’t get involved it makes it hard.

“Alfie skated great yesterday in practice, probably as great as he’s skated in a long time, so we put him in.”

Jimmy Howard will backup Gustavsson, who will start for the second straight game. Babcock disputed Internet reports that Howard has a concussion.

“Just the flu,” Babcock said.

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 52 39 9 4 171 117 82
2 FLA 54 32 16 6 150 122 70
3 NYR 53 30 18 5 150 135 65
4 NYI 52 28 18 6 145 129 62
5 TBL 53 29 20 4 140 127 62
6 DET 53 27 18 8 133 131 62
7 BOS 53 28 19 6 153 146 62
8 PIT 52 27 18 7 138 132 61
9 NJD 55 27 21 7 122 123 61
10 MTL 55 27 24 4 147 145 58
11 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
12 OTT 54 25 23 6 153 166 56
13 PHI 52 23 20 9 122 137 55
14 BUF 54 21 27 6 124 146 48
15 CBJ 55 21 28 6 137 170 48
16 TOR 52 19 24 9 120 144 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
D. Larkin 52 18 20 26 38
H. Zetterberg 53 9 27 3 36
T. Tatar 52 16 17 -1 33
G. Nyquist 53 14 15 -2 29
P. Datsyuk 38 8 20 12 28
J. Abdelkader 53 14 13 -3 27
M. Green 46 4 17 -7 21
N. Kronwall 45 3 14 -10 17
B. Richards 39 5 11 7 16
D. DeKeyser 49 6 8 12 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 20 10 4 .933 1.97
J. Howard 7 8 4 .904 2.89