Kronwall's absence doesn't faze Lightning

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Tampa, Fla. — Niklas Kronwall wasn't the only Red Wings defenseman out for Game 7 against the Lightning.

Marek Zidlicky (concussion) was out after being hurt in Game 6.

Kronwall was suspended one game for charging Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov. So Red Wings coach Mike Babcock went with Jakub Kindl and Alexey Marchenko, and didn't expect any dropoff.

"I expect them to play good; they're Red Wings," Babcock said.

Kindl played 35 games during the regular season, and had 13 points (five goals) and a plus-2 rating in 15 minutes 54 seconds ice time. He had yet to play in the first-round series.

Marchenko played 13 games during the season and had two points (one goal) in 15:25 ice time. He played the first two games of the series, replacing Brendan Smith.

"Anytime there's a door that opens, you lose a player but someone gets to step up and fills his shoes," Smith said.

The absence of Kronwall and Zidlicky didn't make any difference in the minds of the Lightning, which entered Game 7 with a specific game plan no matter who was wearing the Red Wings sweaters.

"It changes nothing," Lightning coach Jon Coopersaid. "Detroit is going to dress 20 players. ... We have a game plan in place. We can't change our game because one player is out. You can't change for one guy."

None of the Lightning players or coaches spent much time discussing Kronwall's suspension.

"It's a league decision," said Kucherov, who declined to say anything more about the matter.

Abdelkader: It's depth

Much was made about the lack of scoring from Red Wings center Henrik Zetterberg and Lightning center Steven Stamkos during the series.

Neither scored a goal in the first six games.

But Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader believes it's the depth guys who have to come through during the playoffs.

"It's not always going to be your big name guys," Abdelkader said. "You see Stamkos hasn't scored goals, and I imagine they're talking about him, too.

"Playoffs are about your depth as a team, and different guys chipping in."

Stralman impressed

One of the few Lightning players with Game 7 experience was Brian Boyle, who played in them with the Rangers.

Once the puck drops, he said, it quickly evolves into a hockey game.

"The building is exciting and then the puck drops," Boyle said. "The emotions might be a little higher. But it's still hockey."

… What did defenseman Anton Stralman learn about the Red Wings in this series?

"They play real tight defensively," Stralman said. "They're real good without the puck, I have to say. They close down quick and play tight in the neutral zone. They're always on the borderline on interference calls, and doing all those small things real well.

"They play a real good, structured game. It's hard to break them."