Defenseman Marchenko finds his place with Red Wings

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — The shuttle to Grand Rapids is gone, forgotten about.

These days, defenseman Alexey Marchenko knows he’s in Detroit, is staying in Detroit, and doesn’t have to worry about taking the freeway west to Grand Rapids.

And that’s a good feeling.

“You want to play here, everyone wants to play in NHL,” said Marchenko, a promising young defenseman who has been waiting for a consistent chance in the league. “It’s exciting.”

The young Russian has earned a chance to play consistently after Kyle Quincey was shelved because of ankle surgery.

Quincey isn’t expected back until the second half of the regular season.

If Marchenko, 23, continues to play as he is, it won’t be Marchenko who will be pushed out of the lineup.

Coach Jeff Blashill is using either Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl as the sixth defenseman, while scribbling Marchenko’s name in the lineup every game.

Thursday’s game against Arizona was Marchenko’s 19th consecutive appearance in the lineup.

What Marchenko lacks in big offensive statistics or highlight-reel plays, he makes up for in steadiness and dependability, along with providing size (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) on the blue line.

Marchenko has one point, an assist, in his 18 games with the Red Wings, with a minus-3 rating.

Offensive flashiness is not what Marchenko provides. It’s the subtly effective plays that coaches love, the simple and safe plays, that he provides a team.

“He wins tons of little stick battles all over the ice that doesn’t always show up on the stats sheet,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “You can see our defensive zone breakouts where we might get hemmed in, and all of a sudden he wins a stick battle, pops it to a guy and we’re out of the zone. That’s an area where I think he excels.

“He does a real good job of being steady, and making good defensive reads.”

Marchenko was sent to Grand Rapids after the exhibition season but was recalled Oct. 23 when Quincey was hurt in Calgary.

Marchenko flew from Grand Rapids on a game day in Vancouver, and played against the Canucks that evening (16 minutes).

He hasn’t left the lineup since.

“My job is to play,” Marchenko said. “I have to do my job and play good hockey. When you play the games, you get more comfortable.”

A seventh-round draft pick in 2011, Marchenko played professionally at CSKA-Moscow — the team managed by Sergei Fedorov — which gave Marchenko an advantage when adjusting to the North American pro game.

“He knows how to gap really well,” Blashill said. “He’s a good passer, so he can go back under pressure and make passes to break out of the zone.”