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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 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