Salei, Kindl battling for sixth spot on defense

DETROIT — Rookie defenseman Jakub Kindl will skate tonight against the St. Louis Blues, in place of veteran Ruslan Salei.

Salei was signed this offseason to solidify the Wings’ three pair of defensemen now has six games left in the regular season to win his spot back.

“I want someone to take the job,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I don’t want to rotate them. So it’s up for grabs. One of them better grab it.”

Salei was given time off recently to be with his wife in California when she delivered their third child. He missed three games and a few practices.

“I’ve been playing the whole year and now he feels like we have to fight for it, so I guess I have to fight for it,” said Salei, who will be a healthy scratch for the second time in the last three games. “I got some time off with my newborn, so I guess it had a little effect on my game.”

Kindl will be paired with Brian Rafalski tonight.

“Whenever I have the opportunity I just got to show (Babcock) I want to take the job,” Kindl said. “I don’t way to say it’s a battler between us. I want to play, he wants to play. It’s coach’s decision.”

Joey MacDonald will get his second straight start in goal.

Jimmy Howard (sprained shoulder) practiced and expects to play Saturday in Nashville.

Pavel Datsyuk (lower body) also hopes to return against the Predators. He will miss his sixth straight game tonight.

Kris Draper is also a healthy scratch.

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