By Ashley Dunkak
JOE LOUIS ARENA – The Detroit Red Wings recalled yet another player from Grand Rapids, this time center Landon Ferraro, in case left wing Justin Abdelkader could not go after suffering a laceration to his leg in the team’s last game. Consistent with the recent luck of the Red Wings, Abdelkader is out two weeks, and in his place Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs will be defenseman Brendan Smith.
“I think he gives us the best chance to win,” Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said Tuesday after the team’s morning skate. “With the amount of injuries we have, we feel like it gives us the best opportunity. I talked to him yesterday afternoon and let him know.”
Abdelkader has eight goals and 16 assists for the Wings this season, while Smith has three goals and 12 assists. The move of Smith to forward demonstrates just how creative Babcock has been forced to be as the injuries continue to mount.
Currently out of action for the Wings are Henrik Zetterberg (back), Pavel Datysuk (knee), Darren Helm (concussion), Joakim Andersson (foot), Tomas Jurco (ribs), Stephen Weiss (hernia), Jonas Gustavsson (groin), Daniel Cleary (knee), Mikael Samuelsson (shoulder), most recently Abdelkader (leg) and possibly Todd Bertuzzi (lower body). If Bertuzzi does not play, fresh-from-Grand-Rapids Ferraro will be in.
The slew of missing players has made it difficult for the Red Wings, who have scored just three regulation goals in their last four games. Not surprisingly, Detroit is 1-3 in that stretch. Despite the landslide of setbacks, the group is focused on pushing toward the playoffs and turning the 22-year postseason streak into a 23-year postseason streak.
“Our expectations are to make the playoffs. There’s no question,” Alfredsson said. “We’re in a big fight, a logjam with a lot of teams, there’s less than a quarter left of the season, so it’s like the playoffs have already started. Every game is really important. We feel confident about our chances. The way we’ve been playing, we’ve been struggling scoring goals, but if our power play keeps playing the way it can, it’s going to give us chances, and the guys that’s been given an opportunity coming from Grand Rapids has done an unbelievable job throughout the year. That’s pretty impressive.”
Though the chances of the Red Wings extending their playoff streak seem to be rapidly disappearing, with Detroit trailing the New York Rangers by three points for the final wild card spot in the East, and with a tough slate of games coming up, it is worth noting the streak almost ended last year, too.
Detroit squeaked in, knocked off the Anaheim Ducks in the first round and took the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks to seven games in the second round.
“The situation is the same, I guess – having to fight to get in,” Niklas Kronwall said. “We might be missing a few guys, but we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We have what we have, and we’ve just got to make the most of it.”