Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is confident that where he is starting forward Erik Cole and defenseman Marek Zidlicky on Wednesday against the New York Rangers (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN) could have some staying power because this is not a plug-'em-in, wait-and-see scenario.
Cole will play on the left wing with center Henrik Zetterberg and right wing Justin Abdelkader. He'll also play on the power play with Zetterberg, Abdelkader, Gustav Nyquist and Niklas Kronwall.
Zetterberg, who has been out for the past four games with a head injury, is expected to return against the Rangers.
Zidlicky will start as the right-side defenseman next to Brendan Smith, who had been paired with Alexey Marchenko, Detroit's only other right-handed shooting defenseman. Zidlicky will play on the power play with Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan and Stephen Weiss.
"What I said to them was, 'In your mind's eye envision the player you are and be that player, and that's it,'" Babcock told NHL.com. "'We're going to work over time to make sure you understand what we want you to do, but we want you to bring what you bring so just do that. Don't be thinking too much, go out and play and we'll work on the rest.'"
Defense - DET
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 19 | PTS: 23
SOG: 103 | +/-: -7
Babcock said he thinks Cole fits best with Zetterberg because Zetterberg plays better when he is surrounded by big, power forwards who can skate well. Cole is 6-foot-2, 205 pounds. He fills the hole created by Johan Franzen's absence related to a concussion.
"We believe Zetterberg is a guy who can really make plays, really do the thinking and a lot of things for people," Babcock said. "If he gets some big bodies around him that can skate it can help him out."
Cole is at his best when he's coming off the wall and getting opportunities around the net. He had 18 goals and 33 points in 57 games with the Dallas Stars this season. He's on his way to his sixth season with 20 or more goals.
"I thought he had some jump in him," Babcock said. "Is it because he was playing with the right guys, I don't really know. But he was playing well prior to us getting him. We're hoping he can be a fit for us. We're going to give him every opportunity to do that."
Zidlicky has the veteran right-handed shot the Red Wings have coveted all season. His arrival is doubly important considering Marchenko is on injured reserve with an oblique strain.
Marchenko could stay with the Red Wings and be a second righty on the blue line once he gets healthy. He's expected to miss a week to 10 days.
"We really like Marchenko," Babcock said. "Marchenko is a real good player and he has played very well for us. You can never have too many D men at this time of the year. We wanted to make sure we had enough hands on deck. We're going to make sure he's playing."