DETROIT – It may have taken a bit longer than was expected, but the Wings are finally getting the kind of play they had hoped out of defenseman Jakub Kindl.
And it couldn’t have come at a better time on the blue line after losing three of their top four over the last two seasons.
“Well he’s probably not worried about getting cut, but he’s probably worried about how much he’ll get to play,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “So, to me, there’s always something to battle for and compete for. The more you prepare and the harder you work and the more you pay attention to detail, the bigger chunk of the pie you get. It’s different probably, but it’s still very important.”
In each of Kindl’s first three seasons in Detroit he always seemed to find a way to work his way out of the lineup.
After missing the first three games last season with an injured groin, he was a healthy scratch in four of the next 14. He sat behind rookie Brian Lashoff.
But then the light turned on.
Kindl finished with four goals and nine assists in 41 games and was a plus-15, second only to Pavel Datsyuk (plus-21) on the team.
“Yet in the hundred mile journey he just finished lap five,” Babcock said of Kindl’s year.
Kindl credits last season’s lockout to getting his game to where it’s at today.
“I had the opportunity to go overseas, played in every situation and played a lot of minutes,” Kindl said. “I played against some tough players from NHL when we played for the national team. It helped me a lot, gave me a lot of confidence so when I came over it was a little easier for me.”
Detroit rewarded Kindl with a four-year extension this offseason worth $9.6 million.
“It’s a huge opportunity for me,” said Kindl, who made $1.05 million last season. “There’s always things I can work on and be better at. I’m definitely going to focus on trying to get better every game, each practice.
“Every little thing counts,” Kindl continued. “Still be better defensively, make the right decisions with the puck, shoot the puck and all those little things. I’m 26 years old, hopefully I can have a long career. There’s always things to work on.”
Kindl will be paired with Danny DeKeyser on the blue line.
“The opportunity opened up last year,” Kindl said. “Nick (Lidstrom) retiring, (Brad Stuart) going away. When I was here those years before you never had a chance as a young guy to step in the lineup because they had all these guys like (Brian) Rafalski, Stuart, Lidstrom, (Niklas) Kronwall, (Jonathan) Ericsson, so it was tough.
“The back end is pretty young and in good shape,” Kindl added. “I think we can be even better.”