DETROIT – Quick update from the Wings’ pre-game skate at Joe Louis Arena prior to their game with the Washington Capitals.
Jonathan Ericsson, who has missed the last 10 games with a shoulder injury, will return to the lineup. He’ll be paired back with Niklas Kronwall.
“Keep him under 30 minutes,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said of the ice time Ericsson would get. “Obviously, he’s a real good player for us, good defender, can pass the puck, huge size, gives us one more high end guy to get the puck going. We’re a better team with him. The forwards need the puck and he can do that plus play against real good players.”
Danny DeKeyser and Kyle Quincey will make up the second blue line pairing.
“Their third line scores big time,” Babcock said. “We’re going to need our top two pairs probably play against three lines so it’s important to have a real good top two.”
Jakub Kindl will also rotate in the mix.
The Wings have to find a way to contain Alex Ovechkin, who has 14 goals and seven assists through 17 games.
“He’s just a big man with super, super skill,” Babcock said. “He can be physical, but his ability to shoot the puck makes you so nervous. He’s a great skater. When he plays the off-side he pulls it between your legs and shoots it through the screen all the time. When he’s playing his forehand side he does that outside-in move. He finds a way to activate himself and get open.”
His linemate Nicklas Backstrom has five goals and 20 helpers.
“He hangs out high, Backstrom and (Martin) Erat find the pucks and they try to find him,” Babcock said. “You give him any space at all and he can kill you. He plays minutes and he can score goals. It’s hard to score goals in the NHL, even though it wasn’t last night, it’s hard most nights and he can score.”
Seven of his goals have come on the power play.
“You’ve just got to minimize his space and time,” Henrik Zetterberg said of Ovechkin. “Obviously, he’s got a great shot and finds a way to always be open it seems. Playing with Backstrom, too, he’s a really good disher. You’ve just got to be aware of them whenever they’re out there and try to have the puck as much as possible.
“You’ve got to bump the guys in the neutral zone and be in the right spots,” Zetterberg added. “They will still make some plays, but you’ve just got to make it hard for them.”
Daniel Cleary will also make his return to the lineup, skating on the third line with Joakim Andersson and Mikael Samuelsson.
“You know, they’ve got some dynamic forwards and good skating defensemen and we’re going to have to pay attention obviously to Ovechkin a key part of their offense and make sure we get an eye on him out there for sure,” Cleary said.