DETROIT >> It’s all about grabbing your piece of the pie in Wings coach Mike Babcock’s eyes.
Tonight, he’ll dress a team that has a majority of its talent driven in from Grand Rapids against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Five of Detroit’s 12 forwards – Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan, Luke Glendenning, Landon Ferraro and Temmu Pulkkinen – all began the season with the Griffins.
Tomas Tatar played there most of last year and Cory Emmerton spent most of the season there after being waived by the Wings at the start of this season.
“Glendening played basically second-line center minutes (Tuesday) night,” Babcock said. “Sheahan plays a ton. Those opportunities aren’t available to you otherwise. Cory Emmerton is in the league, Pulkkinen’s in the league. Ferraro’s in the league. Those are all opportunities for the guys. Make good on your opportunity. You never know what can happen.
“Those guys are in the individual point of their career,” Babcock continued. “They’re trying to find a job and stay in the league, so be confident and play hard and make it good for yourself.”
After losing Jonathan Ericsson to a broken finger on Tuesday, the Wings have lost a player to injury in six consecutive games.
“You can have lots of injuries but if you got Sid and Malkin playing and you got Z and Pav playing you can’t talk about injuries … we were still rolling along pretty good when Z was playing and Pav was out but when they’re both out – and it’s not just the two of them, we’ve got a whole ton of guys (missing),” Babcock said. “The way I look at it, if you’re the general manager of the organization, instead of thinking you’ve got something in the summer, you know what you’ve got, you’ve played them all, you’ve looked at the kids in the organization so now you can decide what you need to do to fix your team.
“Our kids have done a real good job, given us an opportunity,” Babcock added. “(Jeff) Blashill in Grand Rapids has done a real good job. These kids have all done a good job, they’ve won and they know what it takes.”
Ericsson will miss four-to-six weeks after having surgery to stabilize his fractured finger and repair a partially torn tendon.
Jonas Gustavsson (groin) began the long list of injuries after leading the team to a win over the New Jersey Devils on March. 4. That was followed by Joakim Andersson (broken foot, March 9 against the New York Rangers), Tomas Jurco (broken rib, March 11 against Columbus), Todd Bertuzzi (lower-body injury, March 14 against Edmonton) and Justin Abdelkader (leg laceration, Sunday against Chicago.
The team is also without Pavel Datsyuk (knee), Henrik Zetterberg (back), Stephen Weiss (sports hernia), Mikael Samuelsson (shoulder) and Daniel Cleary (knee).
Bertuzzi missed just one game and Gustavsson returned to his backup role Tuesday.
“The kids have come up and jumped right in their spot and I think that’s helped our team,” said Drew Miller, who’s one of just two players on the roster to have played every game this season. “The other big thing is this locker room still believes we can get it done. Night in and night out we’ve got to battle for our wins and play a full 60-minute game but I think we’re getting better every game and as hard as it is to play without Pavel and Z I think we’re trying to find the best way to do that and having some success.”
The Wings head into tonight’s game second in the league in man games lost at 313 according to mangameslost.com. Pittsburgh tops the list at 413.
“We’ve had such good leadership, it’s rubbed off on a lot of guys in the room,” Miller said. “When one guy does down, even when Nick (Lidstrom) retired, you see different guys step up.”