Baptism by fire hasn't been too hot for Red Wings' Filip Hronek

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit – There was a plan for defenseman Filip Hronek this season, but that plan has changed, and maybe it’s for the best.

The Red Wings were going to gradually give Hronek more responsibility, not overwhelm him. But then Danny DeKeyser got hurt early this season – only played eight games – and won’t play again this season.

Filip Hronek

Veterans such as Trevor Daley, Mike Green and Jonathan Ericsson also have missed playing time with injuries.

Suddenly, Hronek was thrust into a bigger role, playing more minutes, and becoming a top-pair defenseman.

Hronek, 22, hasn’t been overwhelmed.

With his two assists in Friday’s victory over the Senators, Hronek has 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists). Hronek has accumulated those points in only 43 games, which is better than the 23 points in 46 games Hronek earned last season.

Hronek is playing in all situations – he played more than 25 minutes Friday – and appears to be handling all the force-fed responsibilities quite well.

The role Hronek has been thrust into shouldn’t have an adverse affect, said coach Jeff Blashill, as long as Hronek continues to play within himself.

“As long as the role mirrors later what he’s going to do in his career, and as long as his play mirrors it,” Blashill said. “By that I mean if you start playing outside of yourself because you got a bigger role than maybe you would have if we were in a better spot in the standings, that can be dangerous.

“(But) that’s not the case with the Fil. He plays to his strengths, and he knows what he is. He’s done a real good job of trying to create offense without taking unneeded risk.”

At minus-17, and with occasional defensive lapses, there’s no doubt Hronek continues to learn. But Blashill likes the fact Hronek is adapting to those lessons and isn’t getting beaten down by the workload.

“He’s certainly learning,” Blashill said. “Is he making mistakes? Yes, he’s making mistakes. He made mistakes (Friday) but he’s learning as he goes and he’s been mentally tough.

“If you weren’t mentally tough … first of all, the non-mentally tough people normally don’t make it to this level. But if you weren’t mentally tough right now, it could be some hard times.

“But he’s really mentally tough.”

Body work

Givani Smith, at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, is one of the bigger and physical forwards the Red Wings have in the lineup.

With that type of size and reach, Smith has the ability to keep the puck close and not easily lose it.

Blashill wants to see Smith take advantage of his size in that way and play wisely with the puck.

“Just protect it, don’t expose it, keep it closer to your body,” Blashill said. “He’s got a huge body. He’s a big man in this league. There’s areas of his game to continue to get better at, but he does a good job of being physical and doing the types of things he needs to do to be a successful player.”

Smith earned his first NHL point Tuesday against Montreal.

Ice chips

With goaltender Jonathan Bernier unable to play Sunday against Buffalo – believed to be sickness – the Wings called up goaltender Calvin Pickard from Grand Rapids.

Pickard is 13-8-3 for the Griffins with a .902 save percentage and 2.90 goals-against average. Pickard has played two games for the Wings this season.

… The Griffins (17-19-4) have climbed out of last place in the tightly packed AHL Central Division into a three-way tie for fourth place after a three-game win streak.

Forward Michael Rasmussen, after missing two months with an injury, scored two goals, and defensemen Dennis Cholowski and Moritz Seider also scored, as the Griffins defeated Manitoba Saturday 6-2.

Twitter: @tkulfan