DETROIT >> Quick update from the Detroit Red Wings’ morning skate prior to their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Justin Abdelkader could be lost up to two weeks with a leg laceration he suffered Sunday in Detroit’s 4-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
One other major shake up to the lineup will be defenseman Brendan Smith moving to forward.
“No. 2, Smitty, he’s playing left wing tonight,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Why? Because I think it gives us the best chance to win. With the amount of injuries we have, we feel this gives us the best opportunity. I talked to him yesterday and let him know.”
Smith has three goals and 12 assists this season and is a minus-4.
“They just told me I was playing some forward because we’re hard pressed for some forwards right now with all the injuries,” Smith said. “They asked if I would play that.
“Surprised, for sure,” Smith continued. “I haven’t played forward in quite some time. They just think I have the tools where I can skate, hit and pressure so that’s what I’m going to do.”
Smith is looking at this move as a compliment rather than how it could be perceived like a demotion.
“You have to look at it like that,” Smith said. “It’s different. I’m always excited to play, it doesn’t matter where it is. I’d rather be playing forward than not playing at all. There’s excitement there for sure. I hope it’s not like a demotion where you went from defense to playing 4-5 minutes. That would be very frustrating.
“They see me as the most versatile on the back end that can step in,” Smith added. “We need to win games so whatever I can help with. We haven’t scored so maybe I can help out in that area. Help in winning battles. So that’s how I need to look at it for sure.”
He had a very costly turnover against Edmonton on Friday, a backhand pass right onto the stick of the Oilers’ Ryan Smyth that led to the game tying goal.
Smith said he talked with Babcock before the move was made.
“He went about saying that we need a player with your speed and caliber to play,” Smith recalled. “I know coach repeatedly says that he’s going to put his best lineup out there whether it’s guys in different positions. I guess I can look at that as something good and we need wins.”
Smith took the morning skate on the fourth line with Cory Emmerton and Teemu Pulkkinen.
While playing Triple-A with the Toronto Marlies, Smith was on a line with John Tavares and Sam Gagner.
“I’ll do exactly what (the Wings) want me to do, win puck battles and skate and then dish the puck so that’s pretty much what I did with those two,” Smith said. “I got a lot of points doing it. I was kind of the power forward in that sense and I’ll try and do that again tonight.
“This is just to help the team,” Smith continued. “I’m a defenseman. This is not something that I’m going to be changing. I’m not (Dustin) Byfuglien or Brent Burns. Truthfully, I’m here just to help the team win. That’s what a lot of these guys are doing and that’s what I’m doing. As soon as someone gets healthy I’ll go back to defense and assume the position.”
Todd Bertuzzi will be a game-time decision. If he can’t go, Landon Ferraro will make his NHL debut.