DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings will be without their top blue line pairing tonight against the San Jose Sharks.
Niklas Kronwall remains sidelined with a mild concussion and Jonathan Ericsson will miss after his wife went in labor Sunday night.
“Well, I think it’s a great opportunity for our guys,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We talk about that all of the time. When someone gets hurt, especially when you’re a young NHLer, there are opportunities for you. If you get stuck behind Cal Ripken for 20 years it’s not much fun, probably. So when you get your opportunity you’re allowed to establish yourself as a player and play every night.”
Xavier Ouellet was recalled from Grand Rapids and will make his NHL debut tonight.
“I’m a defenseman who the coaches can trust,” Ouellet said. “I’m an overall defenseman. I can be strong defensively, make the first right pass on tape, so that would be me.”
Ouellet will be paired with Brendan Smith on the blue line.
Kyle Quincey and Danny DeKeyser will make up the new top pairing, while Brian Lashoff will skate with Jakub Kindl.
Kronwall hopes to return Wednesday at home against the Ottawa Senators.
“I feel good,” Kronwall said. “I’m looking forward to hopefully playing on Wednesday. So far I’ve felt really good ever since day one, so hopefully I’ll be given the go-ahead. I’m sure there’s another test that I need to do before that but I feel good.
“You talk to several people who have said it could take several days before (symptoms) kick in, so far it’s been good, so knock on wood, I feel good,” Kronwall continued. “I look forward to tomorrow.”
The forward lines will also have a different look.
Justin Abdelkader was put back on the top line with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, while Stephen Weiss was dropped to the third line.
“Well, the first thing you have to do when you come to a new place is you have to breathe, and you have to give yourself a break, and you have to spend no time thinking and spend all your time playing,” Babcock said of Weiss. “That’s easy for me to say, but when you come in and get off to a good start and three bounce in off your leg and you get rolling you relax. And when you don’t you pressure up. So what I’ve done is I took him off the power play, put him on the penalty kill, and put him in the three hole and he can play against (Joe) Pavalski all night tonight. That will be a battle in itself. And just look after defense and once he settles down the rest will come.”
Weiss will center Daniel Cleary and Tomas Tatar, who will play in just his second game this season.
“Let’s be honest, if I were the other team and I watched us play, I say if I get a hold of 13 and 40 and 11 I can shut this thing down,” Babcock said of getting Tatar back in the lineup. “Depth in scoring hasn’t been there. We have to find a way to generate and have more offensive push than one line. You have to have it right through your group. We haven’t had it.”
Tatar knows he’s got to guard against trying to do too much.
“It’s going to be a little hard since I didn’t play for a little while but just try to make a play, play simple in the hard area, try to manage the puck and don’t do turnovers,” Tatar said. “I think the system should work for me as well. It’s going to take care of me and hopefully I will play good and try my best.”
Johan Franzen centers Todd Bertuzzi and Daniel Alfredsson on the second line, while Joakim Andersson will play between Drew Miller and Jordin Tootoo on the fourth line.