DETROIT >> The Detroit Red Wings always seem to find depth at forward within the organization.
That now looks to be the case on the blue line.
“I think the guys that are pushing are (Xavier) Ouellet and (Alexey) Marchenko,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said after practice Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena. “(Nick) Jensen’s been a real surprise. (Ryan) Sproul’s a good player. I thought there was four D, there’s actually five of them who look to be like they’re going to play in the league.”
Mattias Backman is the fifth defenseman Babcock referred to.
“Depth on the back end, we need it,” Babcock said. “We continually say we need to improve our D, I thought (Brendan) Smith was the best defenseman on the ice (Monday) night, bar none, on both teams, which is great. I’ve never been able to say that about Smitty in an NHL game ever. A lot of NHL players played, I thought Smitty was great.”
Detroit has seven defensemen on one-way deals this season – Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Smith, Danny DeKeyser, Kyle Quincey, Jakub Kindl and Brian Lashoff.
“We’ve got guys coming,” Babcock continued. “We want some push from the bottom. We think in Marchenko and Ouellet and Sproul and Jensen and Backman that we have that. How far is it away? Last year if you would have talked to me at this time I would have told you … (Tomas) Tatar sat out the first nine games, (Gustav) Nyquist started in the minors, (Riley) Sheahan wasn’t even on the radar screen, (Tomas) Jurco, heck, was so average at the start of the year it wasn’t even funny. So you go through, it doesn’t take long. When you’re big and fast and you know how to play, you see what happens.”