DETROIT – Red Wings’ defenseman Brendan Smith said he didn’t see it coming.
With 11 games left in the regular season, Smith found himself a healthy scratch along the blue line. He was back watching from the sideline a game later.
“I think I’ve been playing pretty well, so it gets a little frustrating when you’re not in the lineup,” Smith said after practice Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena. “We’re all competitive players, competitive people, so we want to be in the lineup, but for sure I want to be there, and I thought I’ve been playing pretty well. There are things that I have to work on, obviously. There are things that everybody’s got to work on, but for myself as a young player, there’s a lot more, so there are things that I have to do it if I’m in the lineup (Thursday) and make sure I stay there, but it definitely caught me off guard.”
Smith will return to the lineup Thursday in the Wings’ home game against the San Jose Sharks.
Prior to his benching, Smith was a minus-5 over his last five games, going a minus-1 in each of those contests.
“I just wanted the puck looked after better,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s a better player than that. He’s had a few days to watch and think about it. I think Smitty is an ultra-competitive guy, who has a huge upside, but he’s just got to take care of the puck better.”
In 26 games this season, Smith has five assists and is a minus-1.
“I think things have to get better, just making my game a little more simple and I guess playing the Nicklas Lidstrom way – see the first pass, make it – so just working hard and try to keep positive and get myself in the lineup again,” Smith said.
Smith said he thinks this was the first time he was a healthy scratch in his playing days.
After overcoming a rash of injuries, the Wings’ blue line is suddenly crowded with nine healthy defensemen.
“It’s really competitive and we have great D, so there wasn’t much of an explanation, but, so you’ve just got to back away from the game and kind of see what you have to do to get better and then do that in the practice and then once you get the chance keep yourself in the lineup,” Smith said. “So if they throw me into the lineup against San Jose I’m just going to play my best and play hard and try to do what I can do to so I can stay in the lineup.”
Smith, who’s averaging just under 19 minutes of ice time per game this season, will replace Ian White in the lineup.