When a team loses a star player such as the Detroit Red Wings’ Pavel Datsyuk, winning games in a very competitive Western Conference gets that much tougher. When that injury is compounded by a slew of others, winning becomes nearly impossible.
Winning without the services of many key players is exactly the task that the Red Wings will face for at least the immediate future.
While Datsyuk is expected to rejoin the lineup soon, other players such as defenseman Jonathan Ericsson may be out for several more weeks.
“It’s all about opportunity, isn’t it?” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “You can go around feeling sorry for yourself, which is an absolute waste of time or you can find more players.”
That is easier said than done for coach Babcock, who has had to find fill-ins for captain Nicklas Lidstrom as well as Lidstrom’s fellow defensemen Kyle Quincey and Jakub Kindl in
addition to Ericsson.
And I’m just talking about the past two weeks- two weeks that have been busy for many players who normally would be skating in Grand Rapids and not Detroit.
Doug Janik was one body the Wings called up to aid the defense, and Janik has filled in just fine with a +4 rating in four games. While Janik and some of the other young players have done well for the Red Wings, coach Babcock and co. would love to see their defense healthy again. The defense has been questionable of late, and getting everyone healthy and back on the same page will certainly be a step in the right direction.
But injuries are in the nature of a contact sport like hockey- either find a way to win with the players who lace up the skates or be run over by teams that do.
The Red Wings will be faced with this challenge as the playoff race is getting very hot. When Datsyuk went down with a knee injury about three weeks ago, Detroit held on to the number one seed in the West. Nine games and six losses later, the team finds themselves barely hanging on to a four seed.
By the end of the month, it appears as though the Wings will once again be healthy barring any more injuries. Until then, they will continue to play shorthanded through a stretch of games that is hugely important. The next two weeks will be crucial for Detroit, both for health and playoff seeding.
Young players like Jan Mursak, Cory Emmerton, Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, and Brendan Smith have already stepped up for the Wings, and will have to continue to play at a high level if the Wings plan on holding home ice advantage for at least one round this postseason.
What to watch for
The Wings’ young guns must step up during the four game road trip they are in the midst of
Tuesday @ Los Angeles (10:30pm, FSD)
Wednesday @ Anaheim (10:00pm, FSD)
Saturday @ San Jose (10:30pm, FSD, NBCSP)