DETROIT – Jakub Kindl again found a way to work his way out of the Wings’ starting lineup.
“We just want him to compete hard defensively, be good defensively and not let people behind him,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said.
Kindl’s benching lasted all of two games because of a long-term injury Jonathan Ericsson suffered and he’ll be back along the blue line Saturday when Detroit plays at Florida.
“I’ve just got to work harder, compete more,” Kindl said.
Instead of calling up a defenseman from Grand Rapids, the Wings will go with the six healthy ones they have.
Ericsson is expected to be out three to five weeks with two fractured ribs he suffered in Monday’s 3-0 loss to the New York Islanders.
And just like last season, Kindl has found himself behind Brian Lashoff on the Wings’ blue line depth chart.
After missing the first three games last season with an injured groin, he was a healthy scratch in four of the next 14, sitting behind Lashoff.
“Well he’s just a simple player,” Babcock said of Lashoff. “He’s got to be real good in his own zone. He can’t be in the chances against highlights, just can’t be in them, and if he’s not in them then we’re happy because he’s not going to do much for you offensively.”
Kindl finished with the second best plus-minus (plus-15) on the team a year ago, second only to Pavel Datsyuk (plus-21) on the team. He also had four goals and nine assists in 41 games.
This year his offensive numbers are good (one goal, nine assists), but he has the third worst plus-minus rating (minus-10). Just Kyle Quincey (minus-13) and Todd Bertuzzi (minus-11) are worse.
“When you look at a guy like (Brendan) Smith or you look at a guy like Kindl, they’re guys that have a chance to do more offensively but they can’t be in all the chances against,” Babcock said. “When you start getting in on all the chances against and your numbers go down there all the time you’re not playing much.”
Detroit was expecting Kindl to slot right into a regular role along the blue line after losing three of their top four over the last two seasons and rewarded him with a four-year extension this offseason worth $9.6 million.