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Wings considering adding Smith's physicality to Suter's line

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Red Wings are considering one wrinkle to possibly ignite one of their slumbering scoring lines.

There's a chance Givani Smith could be used with Pius Suter and Robby Fabbri as a way to get the Suter line on track.

Filip Zadina has been a wing on that line, but the line collectively hasn't been able to get on the scoresheet enough.

Detroit right wing Givani Smith wraps up Calgary defenseman Oliver Kylington while battling for the puck during the first period of a game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Calgary Flames, at Little Caesars Arena, in Detroit, October 21, 2021.

Smith would bring a needed element of size and physicality to a rather smallish line.

"We're considering it," coach Jeff Blashill said of the Smith switch. "I'm not sure if we stay with it in a game, but it's something we want to look at. If we have Smitty up there, he's a net presence, a big body, so you have (Smith) with a playmaking center (Suter) and a shooter in Fabs."

Smith, after being a healthy scratch early last week, has strung together games where he's been more of a physical presence, an area the Wings want to see him develop.

"He's been solid the last three games," Blashill said. "The Vegas game, he made a mistake or two defensively, but he was a presence in the offensive zone (scored a goal). He was better defensively in Arizona. The last game (Wednesday) he was a solid player. He can be a guy who if he can get consistent in his game, and brings what he brings to the table different than other people, he can be a guy who can help us."

More: Red Wings goalie Alex Nedeljkovic staking claim for more playing time

The Wings want Smith to be a physical presence, aggressive, but not take needless penalties after the whistle, or lazy penalties such as hooking and holding.

It's a fine line, a delicate balance, and Smith has had difficulty at times finding that fine line.

"Once the whistle blows, get back to our bench, and if he's upsetting people, great, but don't need to chat a lot," Blashill said. "

COVID concerns

Defenseman Danny DeKeyser remains in COVID-19 protocol, but it isn't clear yet if he'll have to miss approximately 10 days, or return sooner.

Dylan Larkin was pulled in between periods of a game last week, but further testing resulted in Larkin's original test being "false-positive." Larkin returned to the lineup the next game.

Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser, left, is checked by Blackhawks left wing Alex DeBrincat during the first period.

DeKeyser missed Wednesday's game against St. Louis and hasn't practiced since. Blashill explained DeKeyser could return soon depending if he is asymptomatic.

More: Saved: Nedeljkovic carries Red Wings to 4-2 victory over St. Louis

The Wings continue to be on alert given the spike in cases around the NHL, and around Michigan.

"I would say we've tried to be cautious all season, and like everybody else in life, we're all kind of in that balancing act with what do you do?," Blashill said. "Do you still live your life or hunker down a little bit, and it's a hard balancing act.

"We were on a long road trip and we came back to Michigan, and at one point last week I read Michigan was one of the highest spiking states in the country. So we have to continue to be careful."

Renuof returns

Defenseman Dan Renuof was recalled from Grand Rapids after DeKeyser was placed in protocol. He played 13 minutes in Wednesday's victory, with one hit and was plus-2.

Renouf played one game with the Wings after being signed as an undrafted free agent in March 2016. He ultimately signed with Colorado and played in 18 games with the Avalanche last season.

Renouf plays the left side, so he was able to neatly replace DeKeyser, and gives the Wings a defensive presence on the ice.

Defenseman Dan Renuof was recalled from Grand Rapids after DeKeyser was placed in protocol.

"Danny played in the NHL last year and does a good job on the left side," Blashill said. "He can kill penalties, and we weren't going to throw him in there without practicing it, but he's a guy who we have confidence in killing penalties and be physical and hard to play against. If he can do that, he can help us."

Ice chips

Forward Joe Veleno hasn't been able to practice the last two days after leaving Wednesday's game early with an undisclosed injury.

"I would call it day to day, but not being able to practice puts him very questionable for (Saturday)," Blashill said.

... Defenseman Marc Staal (illness) practiced the last two days after missing three games, but isn't certain to play against Buffalo.

"He was out for a long time sick and I don't know if he has enough energy, I don't know where he's at," said Blashill, adding a determination will be made after Saturday's morning skate.


Twitter: @tkulfan

Sabres at Red Wings 

Faceoff: 7 p.m., Saturday, Little Caesars Arena

TV/radio: BSD/97.1

Outlook: Buffalo (7-10-2) has cooled down considerably after a fast start. ... The Sabres have lost five of their last six games, and are 2-9-1 over the last 12 games. ... The Wings defeated Buffalo 4-3 in overtime earlier this season. ... RW Tage Thompson (eight goals, 13 points) and C Rasmus Asplund (12 points) lead offensively.