Wings turn to Brendan Smith for a spark
Detroit – Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith finally will get his chance in Game 3.
A healthy scratch the first two games of this series against the Lightning, and the final seven regular-season games, Smith was to re-enter the lineup Sunday night. He hasn’t played since March 26 against Pittsburgh.
“I went through it last year, the first two games,” said Smith, who was also a healthy scratch the first two games of last year’s series against Tampa Bay before re-entering the lineup. “I think I’m built for the playoffs and the competitive nature I have, and I’ll do well by just playing my game and trying to make sure I do my job and do it effectively.
“That’s what I’m looking forward to doing.”
Coach Jeff Blashill didn’t confirm it, but it appeared Kyle Quincey would be out of the lineup.
When replaced by Alexey Marchenko after the Penguins’ debacle – Smith was minus-2 while the Red Wings lost 7-2 – Smith was surprised by the development, given he was playing some of his best hockey, he felt, while paired with Mike Green.
“I don’t put out the lineups, I just go out and play hard and I thought I was playing well,” Smith said. “But I just have to go out and get my chance again. When the door opens, you have to have answer it and make sure you play well enough that you can stay in the lineup.
“That’s all I have to try to do.”
After losing the opening two games of this series, the Red Wings could be looking for Smith’s aggressiveness and ability to jump into offensive rushes to give the team a spark.
But Smith believes it’s his competitiveness that got him back on the ice.
“I’m getting the chance because I’ve been here before and played and been competitive,” Smith said. “I’m not coming in to spark any offense or be the savior and scoring goals.”
Blashill insists he wasn’t displeased with the way Smith was playing when he was replaced by Marchenko.
“Brendan was out because we have seven good defensemen and I have to choose six,” Blashill said. “At this point, being down 0-2, I thought he could give us a spark.
“He does a great job transporting the puck up the ice, he joins the play well and is effective offensively and manages the puck and his game well.”
Game 3 lines
Blashill wouldn’t comment on lines, but the Wings need to find a combination to limit Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson-centered line.
In the gameday skate, Blashill had Luke Glendening between Riley Sheahan and Justin Abdelkader, while in an offensive tone, Henrik Zetterberg was between Dylan Larkin and Gustav Nyquist, and Pavel Datsyuk centered Darren Helm and Brad Richards.
That left Joakim Andersson between Andreas Athanasiou and Tomas Tatar.
Glendening, who had so much success last year in the playoffs slowing Johnson, said it’s important to limit Johnson’s speed.
“Just try to slow him down a little bit,” Glendening said. “Try to give him as little space as possible. They’re extremely dynamic and can create offense in small spaces.”
Blashill wants to see his team simply limit the line’s scoring opportunities.
“They’ve been very good scoring on their chances,” Blashill said. “We have to eliminate a few defensive mistakes. With any line, the more space you take away the better you’ll be. The more you make them defend, the better you’ll be.
“If all you do is defend them all night, you’re probably in trouble.”
Down two games in the series, protecting home ice was important for the Wings to stay alive in the series.
“They’ve managed to win both games at home and took care of business, and now we have to do the same thing,” Nyquist said.
… The minor-league affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins will open the AHL playoffs Friday in Milwaukee. The Griffins (44-30-2, 90 points) finished 11 points behind Milwaukee in the Central Division.