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A battle is brewing

by Jeff Sanford / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – As the battle for playoff seeding culminates in the Western Conference, another battle is brewing in the Red Wings’ locker room.

Jakub Kindl and Ruslan Salei
Defensemen Jakub Kindl and Ruslan Salei are in the midst of a fight for playing time, with each trying to secure that sixth and final spot on the Wings’ blue line as the team readies for its 20th straight appearance in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Salei will be a healthy scratch tonight as Detroit hosts the St. Louis Blues at Joe Louis Arena. Kindl, who was scratched Monday in Detroit’s overtime loss to the Blackhawks, will play tonight.

As of late, the two defensemen have been rotating in the sixth spot. But after Wednesday’s morning skate, Wings coach Mike Babcock expressed his desire to end the rotation and solidify the lineup.

“I don’t want to rotate them,” he said. “I want someone to take the job. It’s up for grabs, and somebody better grab it.”

For now, it’s still unclear who will step up – between the 14-year veteran and the rookie – and snatch the spot.

“They know, and let’s just see,” Babcock said. “It’s a situation where we want to win each and every night, and we want to give ourselves the best chance to be successful in the playoffs. They’re both different types of players. You bring what you bring.”

For Salei, winning the position battle is about sticking to what he knows best.

“Just play my game,” a clearly frustrated Salei said. “I’ve been playing the whole year, and now that (Babcock) feels like we have to fight for it, so I guess I have to fight for it.”

Salei missed three games in mid-March to be with his wife as she gave birth to the couple’s third child. The missed time could be a reason why he finds himself in a less-than-secure spot on the Wings’ bench.

“Well, I got some time off with my newborn and I guess it had a little effect on my game,” he said. “And I am where I am right now. I think that I missed the practice time most of all.”

The other scratches for tonight’s game are Pavel Datsyuk (lower body injury) and Kris Draper. Also sitting out is goalie Jimmy Howard, who is still recovering from a shoulder injury sustained in last Saturday’s win over the Maple Leafs. However, Howard did say he expected to play this Saturday at Nashville.
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