TRAVERSE CITY – As crowded as the Wings are at forward, the line to get playing time on the blue line isn’t, but there is a pecking order and one defenseman wants to go from seventh on the six-man depth chart to getting into games.
“This year I’m determined to get in the lineup,” Brian Lashoff said. “That’s my main goal. I want to have a good camp and show them that I can play in this league. That’s been my goal since I’ve got there.”
Lashoff, 23, was supposed to spend the entire season in Grand Rapids year, but when the blue line got decimated with injuries – Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl, Carlo Colaiacovo, Ian White and Brendan Smith – he was recalled from the Griffins on Jan. 21.
“Going into last season I wanted to be that guy that was the first call up and I wanted to be that guy when needed,” Lashoff said. “I think when they had me there it was a huge confidence booster and it showed I was close to being able to play. I wanted to show them I was ready when needed to be called on.”
Lashoff scored a goal in his NHL debut against Columbus and was a regular in the lineup up, but after Detroit won the sweepstakes for Danny DeKeyser he soon fell out of favor and became a healthy scratch.
Lashoff sat the final 11 games of the regular season.
“I think it’s nice to be there, but I want to be in the lineup,” Lahoff said. “That’s how I want it to be from the start. I want to play. It’s good competition for the guys. There is a lot of young D and we’ve known each other for a long time. That’s good for the team. Whether I’m in that position I’ll be ready for any opportunity I’m given.”
Lashoff did return in the playoffs when DeKeyser broke his finger, but that lasted all of three games before he was replaced by Colaiacovo.
“I missed about a month where I wasn’t playing,” Lashoff said. “I was just sitting and practicing. I tried my best to stay ready and be ready for an opportunity that I was giving. It was tough not playing, you always want to play, but at the same time I was in the NHL and that’s where I want to be. And that’s where I want to practice to get better.”
Because of Lashoff’s play the team rewarded him three-year extension worth $725,000 a season.
“We like him,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “He’s rangy. He’s 6-foot-2, he competes hard. He’s got the ability to make good outlet passes. This deal gives him some security and us a young defensemen locked up for three years that we feel is only going to get better.”
Lashoff was in the final year of a deal worth $524,000 and was set to become a restricted free agent in July.
“It was a great year,” said Lashoff, who helped Grand Rapids win the Calder Cup after the Wings’ season was over. “It was learning experience as well as me being able to take advantage of an opportunity that was there. I learned a lot. I had my ups and downs, but overall I learned a lot and how to play in this league. It’s tough, but I think I learned as the season went on. I’ve got good guys to learn from as well.”
Lashoff, who was undrafted and played his way onto the 2010 USA World Junior team that won a gold medal, feels he needs to improve on his foot speed and making a goof first pass out of the zone.
“The game’s fast,” he said. “You want to play as little defense as possible. That’s something I learned from playing with (Niklas) Kronwall. He can get the puck moving out our own zone and get the puck in the offense and so we’re not playing in our own zone as often.”