Defenseman Joe Hicketts talks about his promotion from Grand Rapids to the Red Wings. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Detroit — Joe Hicketts is excited to get another opportunity.
The young defenseman made the Red Wings’ roster out of training camp, partly because of circumstances.
Many of the Wings’ veteran defensemen were hurt and couldn’t play. So, suddenly, the Wings’ defense was essentially the Grand Rapids Griffins’ defense.
Now, in the final week of the regular season, it’s happened again.
Niklas Kronwall was the lone Wings’ regular on defense who is in the lineup Tuesday against Pittsburgh.
Hicketts was back Tuesday with many of his Griffins teammates — and glad to be at Little Caesars Arena.
“I haven’t really thought too much into it,” said Hicketts, who played eight games with the Wings, with no points. “I got called up and my full focus was to come and play, and play to the best of my ability and help this team.
“I’m excited. Anytime you get a chance to play in the best league in the world, you have to be. I’m looking forward to it and hopefully I can help the team win here.”
Hicketts, 22, has played in 61 games in Grand Rapids this season, earning 27 points (three goals, 24 assists) and a plus-5 rating.
“I feel I’ve been playing real well down there and playing a lot,” Hicketts said. “This is an opportunity to show what I can do at this level.”
Hicketts found out several weeks ago the Wings likely would rotate through some Griffins’ defensemen, after the NHL trade deadline passed and injuries on defense began to mount.
That gave Hicketts an opportunity concentrate on the task at hand.
“You want to perform to the best (of your ability) down there and up here, so I’ve been using the last couple of weeks to fine-tune my game and be ready to go once I get the chance,” Hicketts said.
In his October audition with the Wings, Hicketts was prone to giving up a big play while attempting to make one.
Coach Jeff Blashill wants to see a steadier performance this final week of the season.
“Not being erratic, not making big mistakes,” Blashll said of his expectations of Hicketts. “It’s a hard balance for Joe because he’s a gamer, he likes to go make plays and make things happen. You want to be able to do those types of things without making the big mistakes and chances against, that’s the biggest thing.
“That’s the biggest thing we’ve been successful in the last little bit, we’ve been able to avoid making those big mistakes.
“If he can play his game without making the big mistakes, he’s a real effective hockey player.”
How has the Wings’ defense been able to maintain its good play contribute to the latest win streak, despite having so many new, inexperienced faces?
Blashill feels it has been because of the “steady" play on the back end.
“What they’ve been is fairly steady, they haven’t been erratic, and you can win with steadiness on the back end,” Blashill said. “If you can avoid big mistakes and get solid goaltending, it’s when you get real erratic — and we’ve had some of it — when you get real erratic and give up the big time chances that goalies can’t help you enough (when teams get hurt).
“If you are steady enough, you might get out-shot and out-chanced, but the level of chances aren’t big time, that group has done a good job of that.”
Blashill said forward Frans Nielsen (upper body) will not play in any of the final three games this week, and Luke Glendening (upper body) is “extremely doubtful” to play.
Thomas Vanek (hand) is likely out for the remainder of the schedule, depending on “pain tolerance."
Goaltender Jonathan Bernier (lower body) is day-to-day, as is defenseman Danny DeKeyser (lower body).
…The debut of defenseman Jake Chelios gave the Wings six father-son combinations for the team.
Sid and Gerry Abel, Adam and Andy Brown, Bill and Peter Dineen,Gordie and Mark Howe, and Jimmy and Jimmy Peters Jr., preceded Chelios.