Injuries on defense mounting for banged-up Red Wings

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Detroit Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson moves the puck during Thursday night's loss to Los Angeles.

Do you remember the opening weeks of the Detroit Red Wings' 2018-19 season?

If you're a Wings fan, you probably don’t want to. The Red Wings opened with seven consecutive losses, and a key reason was that their defense was ravaged with injuries.

There’s a similar situation going on currently.

The Wings traveled to California without defensemen Danny DeKeyser and Trevor Daley, knowing both veterans wouldn’t be returning soon.

While in California, the Wings have seen Filip Hronek and Patrik Nemeth added to the sidelines, both injured while blocking shots.

Nemeth blocked a shot last weekend and the area became infected. He will miss the entire California trip and likely much more. Coach Jeff Blashill told reporters Thursday that Nemeth could be out three weeks.

Hronek missed Thursday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Kings and didn’t practice Friday in San Jose. Hronek is likely to miss Saturday’s game against the Sharks with what Blashill said was a bruise.

So, with no Hronek, Nemeth, DeKeyser and Daley, the Wings' defense has a different look.

Jonathan Ericsson, in case you missed it earlier in the week, has returned to the Wings after spending most of this young season in Grand Rapids getting into game shape. Ericsson was hurt late last season, and missed much of this preseason, with back and hip issues.

Ericsson played just under 21 minutes against the Kings – almost four of those minutes on the penalty kill – and was paired with Madison Bowey, a pairing that was used by Blashill last season.

Dennis Cholowski moved onto the top pairing with Mike Green against the Kings, and Dylan McIlrath was paired with Alex Biega.

The Wings also have Joe Hicketts, who was called up from Grand Rapids, available if Blashill wants to go that direction.

Top line dominates

The line of Dylan Larkin centering Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha has been the Wings’ most consistent offensive force this season.

There was nothing different in the loss to the Kings, with Bertuzzi scoring both goals, Mantha assisting on both, and Larkin adding an assist.

The Larkin line was the Wings’ best offensive threat all evening.

“They complement each other well, especially when they’re playing at the top of their game,” Blashill told reporters after the game. “They feed off each other pretty well, and they made some other real good plays that had a chance to go in the net.”

Blashill thinks the second line of Valtteri Filppula between Robby Fabbri and Andreas Athanasiou is progressing, and could give the Wings another dependable scoring line.

But the Filppula line was silent against Kings, combining for three shots on net and a minus-2 rating.

Ice chips

Though the defense is banged up, the Wings are getting a forward back in the lineup. Luke Glendening practiced full-tilt Friday and was expected to return to the lineup against the Sharks.

Glendening injured his hand Oct. 23 in Ottawa and has been out since. In 10 games this season, Glendening has two goals and an assist.

… Goaltender Jonathan Bernier was hardly to blame for Thursday’s loss, but all signs point to Jimmy Howard returning into the net against the Sharks. Howard hasn’t played in nine days, watching as Bernier won three consecutive games and was good enough to win against Los Angeles except for an unfortunate bounce in overtime.

“Bernie’s been unbelievable for us,” Bertuzzi said. “He made some big, big saves (Thursday) to keep us in it. He brought us all the way to the end.”

… Judging from Friday’s practice lines, it appears forward Taro Hirose will rejoin the lineup also, after having been a healthy scratch the last four games.

Red Wings at Sharks

Faceoff: 10:30 p.m. Saturday, SAP Center, San Jose

TV/radio: FSD/97.1 FM 

Outlook: The Sharks (9-10-1) appear to be catching fire, having won five consecutive games. … The Sharks have the best penalty kill in the NHL (90.5 percent). … LW Evander Kane (12 goals), C Tomas Hertl (21 points) and D Brent Burns (19 points) lead a deep, experienced roster.

Twitter: @tkulfan