Already forced to play without Hart Trophy finalist Pavel Datsyuk and reigning Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom, the Wings found out only hours before Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals on Wednesday that defenseman Jonathan Ericsson would also be unavailable.
Ericsson participated in Wednesday morning's skate, but shortly thereafter complained of pain in his abdomen. Little did anyone know how serious it really was.
The 25-year-old was quickly diagnosed with acute appendicitis and underwent emergency surgery. Incredibly, there's an outside chance that Ericsson will be ready to go as early as Saturday, when the Wings open the Stanley Cup Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Joe Louis Arena.
"You just ask yourself, what's next?" Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart said. "But those are the challenges that are fun to meet … guys go down with injuries, and other guys get opportunities."
Detroit made the most of it on Wednesday night and earned a rematch against the Pens with a 2-1 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks. Much of the victory had to do with the performances of 47-year-old Chris Chelios, as well as Derek Meech and Brett Lebda. Chelios played more than 10 minutes and nearly scored the game-winner in overtime.
"Today was a bit of a shock, to say the least," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "It's just one of those things. Obviously we were stretched on the back end. I thought Cheli and Meechie and Lebs did a great job today to support the other guys. We were able to get through it."
Having players step up in the playoffs is nothing new to the Red Wings. Stuart was a horse on the blue line again on Wednesday night, logging almost 28 minutes. Lebda assisted on both of Detroit's goals. Meech, who had appeared in only one other game this postseason, was solid when called upon.
With Game 1 slated for Saturday, the Wings don't have much time to heal. Babcock was hoping his team would get a few more days off before the start of the Finals -- especially after disposing of Chicago in just five games.
"Hopefully you're going to get some guys back … normally when you win in five games, you get this little break," Babcock quipped. "I don't know if we're making up for lost time by jamming us all in 10 days or whatever we're doing. But they don't ask me these questions."
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