Detroit — The ulitimate goal every season has been to make the Red Wings and stay in the NHL.
But thus far defenseman Xavier Ouellet has had brief — albeit impressive — appearances in his young career, but they’ve been stints that have gotten fans excited. They just haven’t translated into a permanent stay yet.
Monday night in Boston, Ouellet plays in his first exhibition game after being out with an upper-body injury the past week.
From Ouellet’s perspective, he’s on a mission this week to show the Red Wings he belongs in the NHL
“I’m here to stay,” Ouellet said of his long-term plan. “I come here every year to camp to try and stay (on the team) and do my job. The experience I got last year and the year before is just a plus for me, for knowing what I’m going into. I just need to go out there and play the game I can play.
“They know me here and they are going to have to make the decisions.”
Those decisions the Red Wings make very well might include sending Ouellet back to Grand Rapids, for a bit more seasoning
Ouellet, 22, can be sent down to the minors once more without being exposed to waivers and the Red Wings have seven NHL defensemen on the roster.
Ouellet has played 25 regular-season games in his NHL career, and one playoff game.
“Obviously the goal is to be here and it’s disappointing every time (to be sent to Grand Rapids),” Ouellet said. “I have no control over this. That’s the biggest thing. I can only focus on my game and how I handle myself.
“At the end of the day, I’m still playing hockey and having fun.”
Coach Jeff Blashill knows Ouellet well from their time together in Grand Rapids.
“For Xavier to be at his best he has to be extremely efficient and do a great job of using his smarts and not giving up chances,” Blashill said. “He’s somebody with the whole group of young defensemen (Alexey Marchenko, Ryan Sproul, Nick Jensen), they’re all good players and now they have to be better than the players that were here a year ago and that’s what their goal is.”
Blashill has Dylan Larkin centering Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco on Monday night in Boston.
“It gives Larkin a chance to play with different guys, different roles, and he’ll probably see a real good player on Boston,” Blashill said. “We’re just trying to see different line combinations.”
… Goalie Jimmy Howard will play the entire game against the Bruins.
… Blashill is hopeful injured defenseman Mike Green (groin), and forwards Darren Helm (concussion, shoulder) and Teemu Pulkkinen (upper body) all will be able to skate and practice by the end of the week.
The Red Wings have games Wednesday in Pittsburgh, at home Friday against Toronto, then conclude the exhibition season Saturday in Toronto.
... Blashill likes what he’s seen of defenseman Jakub Kindl, who is battling to earn playing time on the third pairing.
“He’s done a real good job, did a real good job on the power play (Saturday) and made plays,” Blashill said.
As for who will be on the third pair?
“Still fluid,” Blashill said. “Let’s have as much information as we can and watch as many games as we can and make a decision later in the week.”