DETROIT – The last time the Wings played without defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom this season, it’s a game they would like to soon forget.
That’s not going to be the case this time.
And it wasn’t just Lidstrom (swollen ankle) along the blue line they were missing and still pulled out a 5-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets Tuesday night. They were also missing Kyle Quincey (sore groin) and Jonathan Ericsson (fractured wrist).
“That’s a chunk, three of your D, what I liked is we got good depth in the organization,” said Wings coach Mike Babcock, whose squad lost to Montreal 7-2 earlier this year without Lidstrom in the lineup. “It’s important to always stop the bleeding as fast as you can. We let this go one game longer than it should have.”
With three of their top six defensemen missing, the Wings had to recall Brendan Smith and Doug Janik. They also re-inserted Jakub Kindl into the lineup.
It was the correct chemistry as Detroit snapped its three-game winless streak.
“Calling up Smitty and Janik they did a real good job,” Babcock said. “I thought Smitty was excellent, Janik was real steady for us.”
“I thought our D played good,” said Joey MacDonald, who won his seventh straight start. “Smitty and Janik came up, stepped into the lineup and played well.”
“We had a few bodies out, the guys that came up did a really good job, both Smitty and Janik played real well for us,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “Nice to see we have that good of defensemen in our organization. Everyone chipped in, we need to do that this time of year, it’s good to see everyone get on the scoring sheet.”
Janik was a plus-2 in just over 18 minutes of ice time, 2:36 of which came shorthanded, while Smith was a plus-1 in 13:15 of ice time.
“It’s good for both of us to get our feet wet again here,” Smith said. “I think the biggest thing is we give the forwards the puck, they’re so talented. I think it worked out for us.
“Hopefully, I did well enough to get maybe some more time for next game,” Smith added. “It’s a process. You’ve got to earn your time.”
Smith was paired with Kindl, while Janik was on the ice with Ian White. Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart made up the No. 1 pairing.
“We were planning on me and Kronner but we decided they wanted to match (Brad Stuart) and Kronner up against Nash’s line which obviously worked out,” Smith said. “It was kind of like we switched all over the place, different pairings all the time, but I think the boys responded well.”
Smith was caught off guard when he learned he was being recalled after the Wings dealt Mike Commodore to Tampa Bay before the trade deadline on Monday.
“It kind of caught me by surprise because of all the numbers they had on defense,” Smith said. “They had eight four days ago.
“I know they’re going for the Cup,” Smith added. “I always want to get the call-up. It can be a little frustrating but I’m just paying my dues to try to get up here.”
After serving his suspension for an illegal hit in the preseason, Smith played three games with the team filling in for White, who fractured his cheek bone, on a West Coast trip.
“I thought on our West Coast trip he showed he’s an NHL player,” Babcock said. “Kenny (Holland) and they decided the best way to do it was keep all hands on deck and go about it. We’ve had real good development out of Kindl. If you bring Smitty up and then one of them play every second game and it probably doesn’t help.
“So that’s what we try to do here to create depth within our own organization,” Babcock added. “Bottom line is you get to play more (in Grand Rapids). Smitty wouldn’t tell you this, but in his own mind he probably was very frustrated last time he went down because he’s sick and tired of going down when he thought he’s a full time NHL player. Usually what happens is their game falls off down there for a while, then they kind of get over it and they get playing again. But those are all parts about being a young player and becoming mentally tough enough to be an everyday NHLer that contributes.”
Smith, 23, never fell into the funk. He had 10 goals, 22 assists and was a plus-7 in 47 games with the Griffins.
“I actually felt that I kept playing better and my AHL game was kind of at its best then,” Smith said. “Like I said, I keep trying to go to practice, whether it
was at Grand Rapids, and play my best and try to work myself back up here. I got my chance here, so I got to prove myself.”