Kindl squeezed out as Smith-Marchenko pairing flourishes

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Brendan Smith was in the lineup again Friday, as he’d been for the last seven games.

Smith was paired with Alexey Marchenko, who hasn’t been out of the lineup since arriving Oct. 24 from Grand Rapids.

The Smith-Marchenko pairing has earned the trust of coach Jeff Blashill, provided a good blend of offense and defense and, all the while, kept Jakub Kindl out of the lineup.

Kindl opened the season in the lineup, but through Friday has been a healthy scratch in 12 of the last 13 games — the only game Kindl having played, Nov. 29, when he replaced Smith in the lineup.

“That’s not an indictment at all on Kindl,” Blashill said. “Kindl has played well when he’s played. But we’ve made a decision that players, a lot of times, are better when they’re playing on a consistent basis so we’ve wanted to go with a consistent group as long as we could.”

Smith has appeared to make significant strides after ending last season on a disappointing note.

A risk-taker early in his career, Smith has a better understanding when to force the action and when it might be beneficial to stay back.

“Smitty’s game management has been real good,” Blashill said. “He’s taking what is given and making plays when he’s had an opportunity to make plays. He can get up and be active in the offensive zone and has good offensive instincts, and he’s coupled that with making good decisions in his own zone and neutral zone.”

What has stood out on occasion this season is also Smith’s willingness to stand up for teammates and not let the Red Wings be pushed around.

“He has a toughness, an edge to him,” Blashill said. “He punches back when people try to punch you.”

Smith’s offensive instincts blend well with Marchenko’s defensive style.

“Marchenko is very reliable and one of those defensemen that can end plays,” Blashill said. “He makes defensive plays. He can disrupt 2-on-1’s and he seems to make the defensive play a lot.

“(Danny) DeKeyser is real similar in that aspect as well.”

Old foes

Henrik Zetterberg has faced Vancouver twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin often throughout their respective careers, going back to Sweden.

They’ve also been teammates on Swedish national teams.

With all three players now 35, and beginning the twilight of their careers, Zetterberg relished Friday’s opportunity to play against them.

“Especially now when we are getting older and we don’t see each other as many times (on the schedule),” Zetterberg said. “When we have an opportunity to play against each other, it’s fun, and usually they’re good games.”

The amazing thing about the Sedin twins is their play remains at a consistently high level.

Heading into Friday’s game, Daniel led the Canucks with 14 goals and 34 points while Henrik led the team with 22 assists (and had 31 points).

They were Vancouver’s two top scorers by a significant margin.

“They have the best chemistry I’ve ever seen on the ice,” forward Gustav Nyquist said. “They seem like they know exactly where the other one is at all points during the game, especially in the offensive zone.

“They’ve been real good in this league for a long time and they’ve meant a lot for Swedish hockey, too.”

Ice chips

Former Red Wings player and NHL coach Adam Oates is in town this weekend to consult with Blashill and the coaching staff.

“I love to pick guys’ brains,” Blashill said. “I like guys who don’t necessarily think like me. If I can pick guys’ brains who don’t think like me, it expands my horizons and I can take it all in and spit out in my own way, and I think I become a better coach because of it.”

… There were no changes in the Red Wings lineup , with Kindl the lone healthy scratch.

… The Red Wings lead the league with 13 games that have been decided by overtime or shootout.