Blashill bids Marchenko adieu; Leafs claim D-man off waivers

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
The Maple Leafs claimed defenseman Alexey Marchenko off waivers Saturday.

Detroit — Alexey Marchenko is going to be reunited with former Red Wings coach Mike Babcock.

The Maple Leafs, who Babcock now coaches, Saturday claimed the Red Wings defenseman off waivers.

Marchenko, 25, was placed on waivers by the Red Wings Friday, who needed a roster spot to activate defenseman Brendan Smith.

Smith will return to the lineup tonight in Nashville.

Marchenko played in 30 games with the Red Wings this season with six points (all assists) and a plus-6 rating.

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Signed through next season at $1.45 million per season, Marchenko has been a healthy scratch the past four games having lost his spot to Nick Jensen.

“Alexey is a good defenseman, he can play in the NHL,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “First of all, I want to thank him. He worked hard for me for a number of years.

“He helped us win a lot of games, including this year and last year, and as well in Grand Rapids. He’s a great person.

“We’ve got a number of good defensemen, so we had to make a business decision, but certainly I wish him a ton of luck. Just not against us.”

The Red Wings chose to expose Marchenko rather than Ryan Sproul, who hasn’t been in the lineup for 10 games.

Marchenko had a regular spot in the lineup until injuring his right shoulder Nov. 20, then re-injuring it Dec. 13, further losing his grip on a lineup spot.

Smith has been out since Jan. 4 with a sprained knee.

Nielsen, Kronwall out

Blashill said both forward Frans Nielsen (upper body) and defenseman Niklas Kronwall (lower body) would not play against Nashville.

Both are considered day to day, with the Red Wings not playing against until Tuesday.

In for the two were Smith on defense, replacing Kronwall, while Tomas Jurco replaced Nielsen.

It’s been a frustrating season for Jurco, who has yet to register a point in 13 games this season, and has a minus-6 rating.

Jurco had played only twice in the last 13 games.

“It’s hard when you don’t play, I’m not going to lie,” Jurco said. “When I played every game, I didn’t feel any pressure. I just played and I had fun. But when you don’t play for three weeks, you play a couple of games and you don’t play ... I wouldn’t say stressed out, but it’s not like you play all (the time).

“All I can do is just play hockey, be positive, and play hockey.”

Blashill understands Jurco is feeling frustrated with a limited role.

“He’s frustrated, he wants to be a full-time player and he believes he’s good enough to be a full-time player,” Blashill said. “I certainly think with opportunity he can be a full-time player. The thing we have here is, we have a lot of good players and he has to find a way to separate himself from the other guys.

“How do you do that? You go out there and play great hockey and sometimes it’s in limited minutes, and it’s not an easy thing to do.”

Ice chips

Saturday was the first day NHL goaltenders were required to begin wearing streamlined pants, which were tighter around the waist and thigh.

The protection pads for the thighs have also been changed from flat rectangles to curved and form-fitting.

Goaltender Petr Mrazek and Jared Coreau had no issues with the new equipment.

Coreau has been wearing his his new stuff since the start of the season.

“It felt better than the old ones,” Coreau said. “I like them better actually; they’re more comfortable.”

… Goaltender Jimmy Howard was scheduled to make a conditioning start Saturday in Grand Rapids. Howard could make one more start with the Griffins before rejoining the Red Wings.