Detroit Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader will miss two weeks after cutting his leg against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, the latest addition to a season-long list of walking wounded for the club.
Forward Todd Bertuzzi could return to the lineup after dealing with a lower-body injury. But in the most compelling testament to how depleted Detroit's lineup is, coach Mike Babcock has decided to move defenseman Brendan Smith to left wing in an effort to jump-start the offense when the Red Wings host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday.
"Why? Because I think it gives us the best chance to win," Babcock said. "With the amount of injuries we have, we feel that gives us the best opportunities."
Smith said he hasn't played forward in some time, but discussed the decision with his coach and is prepared to take on a new role for a team that is in desperate need of points. Entering Tuesday Detroit trailed the New York Rangers by three points for the Eastern Conference's second and final wild-card spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs; the Red Wings hold two games in hand.
"We need to win games from here, so whatever we can do that I can help. We haven't really scored so we need help in that category," Smith said. "I'm always excited to play; it doesn’t matter where it is. I'd rather be playing forward than not playing at all. There's excitement there for sure. I hope it's not like a demotion where you went from defense to playing four to five minutes. That would be really frustrating."
The divisional matchup against Toronto also could see the NHL debut of Landon Ferraro, depending on Bertuzzi's status. The son of longtime NHL player and current hockey analyst Ray Ferraro, Landon was drafted in the second round (No. 32) by Detroit in the 2009 NHL Draft.
Ferraro is the third player Detroit has called up from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League in the past five days, along with forwards Teemu Pulkkinen and Jordin Tootoo, the latter of whom has since been sent back. If he plays, Ferraro will be the seventh player to make his NHL debut for Detroit this season.
Despite all the adversity, Babcock isn't concerned about Detroit prolonging its streak of 22 straight seasons in the playoffs.
"I can spend a whole lot of time worrying about that or I can get ready for today's game," he said. "We always say, 'When you win today everything's OK.' That's the approach we're going to take."
The Maple Leafs are without an important player of their own, as goaltender Jonathan Bernier remains out with what coach Randy Carlyle described as a tweaked groin. Goalie James Reimer will get the start. Carlyle had little empathy for the Red Wings' injury struggles considering Toronto had its share of injuries in the first half of the season.
"Nobody was feeling sorry for us two months ago when we were missing our top two centers," Carlyle said.
Here are the projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Red Wings:
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Joffrey Lupul - Nazem Kadri - David Clarkson
Troy Bodie - Nikolai Kulemin - Mason Raymond
Carter Ashton - Jay McClement
Dion Phaneuf - Carl Gunnarsson
Cody Franson - Paul Ranger
Tim Gleason - Morgan Rielly
Scratched: Peter Holland, Colton Orr, Trevor Smith, Frazer McLaren
Injured: Jonathan Bernier (groin), Dave Bolland (ankle)
Daniel Alfredsson - David Legwand - Johan Franzen
Gustav Nyquist - Riley Sheahan - Tomas Tatar
Brendan Smith - Luke Glendening - Teemu Pulkkinen
Drew Miller - Cory Emmerton - Todd Bertuzzi
Niklas Kronwall - Jonathan Ericsson
Kyle Quincey - Danny DeKeyser
Brian Lashoff - Jakub Kindl
Scratched: Landon Ferraro
Injured: Tomas Jurco (rib), Joakim Andersson (foot), Henrik Zetterberg (back), Pavel Datsyuk (lower body), Stephen Weiss (sports hernia), Darren Helm (head), Daniel Cleary (knee), Mikael Samuelsson (shoulder), Justin Abdelkader (leg), Jonas Gustavsson (groin)