Brooklyn, N.Y. — When defenseman Jonathan Ericsson got hurt last season, coach Jeff Blashill knew it would be a major loss.
The Red Wings already were struggling with so many other injuries and the season was spiraling out of control.
But losing a 6-foot-4 defenseman like Ericsson in February to wrist surgery was going to be a major obstacle.
“He was probably night in and night out our best defenseman last year until he got hurt,” Blashill said. “When he got hurt, it really showed how much we missed him.”
Healthy now, and paired with Trevor Daley, Ericsson is off to one of the best starts in his career.
Ericsson entered Tuesday’s game with seven points (one goal) in 32 games, with a plus-1 plus-minus rating.
But it’s on the defensive end, while averaging just under 20 minutes per game (19:38), playing against opponents’ top lines, where Ericsson has been impressive.
“It’s hard to be his size and have the ability to be able to skate and do those type of things, not many guys in the league can,” Blashill said. “He has a unique skill set. He has the ability to go against the other team’s best players and certainly him and Daley have been a real good pair.
“We’re in a tough spot without him (Ericsson).”
The two veterans, Daley and Ericsson, have blended their strengths well, and have become a formidable defensive pairing.
“He’s obviously a more offensive guy than I am,” Ericsson said. “We’ve kind of found a way where we know where each other is out there. Just knowing kind of where we have each other, talking and communicating (is a big plus).
“It can always be better, but it’s a good start. We like the challenge of getting the matchups (against opposing top lines) a lot.”
Simply being healthy is what Ericsson attributes to his positive season thus far.
Ericsson has battled a chronic hip injury for the past few years and managing it has been an issue.
But with the Red Wings now staffing chiropractors, both home and on the road, plus the ability to use hydrotherapy and other state-of-art equipment at Little Caesars Arena has helped his situation considerably.
“We’re getting all the tools we need and that we want to use,” Ericsson said. “We’ve got a perfect setup here. There’s nothing you could complain about. We’ve basically got the best chance to get back on the right track.
“I can skate better and the hips feel better on the ice. I’m getting even more help now from the training staff, we have chiropractors at every game.
“I need that extra adjustment.”
Having the chiropractor on the road trips is where Ericsson feels it’s a big advantage, because in the past, his hip would be aching by the end of a lengthy trip.
But Ericsson also has simply learned to listen to his body.
“I’ve gotten to know my body even more to keep it better,” Ericsson said. “What I shouldn’t do, to aggravate it.
“(But) the skating feels a little better.”
The Red Wings didn’t have a morning skate Tuesday.
… Forward Frans Nielsen on his former New York Islanders teammate John Tavares, who is an NHL MVP candidate: “You have to know him and see him every day to realize how hard he worked to get to where he is today, and how competitive he is. He expects to be the best every night. He has that drive to be a difference-maker all the time. It’s just not talent. A lot of guys survive on just talent in this league. He has a lot of talent, but he deserves everything that he’s gotten.”
... The Islanders might have a new home soon. Reports Tuesday indicated they won a bid to begin building a new arena near Belmont Park.
Red Wings at Flyers
Faceoff: 8 p.m. Wednesday, Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia.
TV/radio: NBC Sports Network/97.1 The Ticket.
Outlook: The Flyers (14-12-7, 35 points) have recovered after going winless in 10 games. … The Red Wings ended a 12-game losing streak in Philadelphia on their last visit last season. ... RW Jakub Voracek (33 assists) and C Claude Giroux (36 points) headline an explosive offense.