Detroit — Mike Green has had the tag of offensive defenseman attached to him throughout his career, and Brendan Smith isn’t shy about taking chances, either.
Normally they are paired with a defenseman who is defensive-minded.
But Green and Smith were slated to be paired together Tuesday against New Jersey as coach Jeff Blashill attempted two new pairings largely necessitated by Jonathan Ericsson’s shoulder injury (Ericsson missed his second consecutive game).
Blashill also had Niklas Kronwall playing with Danny DeKeyser — Green had been paired with Kronwall, and Ericsson with DeKeyser.
Jakub Kindl (who replaced Ericsson in the lineup) was paired with Alexey Marchenko.
Blashill never has been hesitant about pairing two offensive defensemen together.
“It’s a matter of reading off each other,” Blashill said. “To be honest, the most important guy in those situations usually if your F-3 (trailing forward). Rarely do you have an issue where both defensemen are caught. The guy that has to cover for the D (defenseman) if he is caught is the forward.
“If both D (defensemen) are up, then two forwards have to cover but that doesn’t happen very often.”
Smith had been playing with Marchenko, a much more defensive-minded player. Smith understands he’ll need to adjust playing with Green.
“He (Green) wants to get up there so I’m going to be more aware of that,” Smith said. “When I was with Marchenko, he kind of watches me and makes sure he’s got my back.
“When you play with Green, you have the puck a lot so if you’re making good decisions you’re not playing in your own end. It’s a lot like playing with Kronner (Kronwall), you give him the puck and he’s going to make a good play.
“That’s what I want to do, make sure I get the puck in his (Green) hands and read off him.”
As for the Kronwall-DeKeyser tandem, Blashill liked what he saw from the pairing late in Sunday’s 4-2 victory over Calgary.
Blashill likes what the Kronwall-DeKeyser pairing can do defensively.
“We had talked about DK and Kronner (playing) together,” Blashill said. “Kronner has spent most of his career matched up against the other team’s best players and DK, night in and night out, has been one of our best defenders.
“We thought we’d pair them together. We thougth they played real well against (Calgary’s Johnny) Gaudreau’s line.”
Jimmy Howard got the start in net Tuesday against New Jersey.
… Blashill didn’t make any other lineup changes, keeping the forwards and defensemen intact from Sunday’s game. Ericsson (shoulder) is day-to-day and could return Saturday in Nashville after the holiday break.
… Blashill thinks forward Pavel Datsyuk has fully recovered from the ankle surgery that delayed his start of the regular season and slowed him once he got on the ice.
“Pavel has been good for a number of weeks now,” Blashill said. “It hasn’t necessarily resulted in production but has resulted in chances. You can’t necessarily make the puck go in the net but you can create chances and he’s done that on a consistent basis.
“The production will continue to increase as he continues to play (that way).”