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Defensive future is bright for Red Wings

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

DETROIT – To the critics and naysayers, who forecasted the demise of the Red Wings’ defense after legendary Nicklas Lidstrom retired, coach Mike Babcock has news for them.

“We think we’re re-tooling it,” he said. “Kenny (Holland) tells me that we have some kids coming too.”

It’s not that the Red Wings didn’t like where they were defensively, but an abundance of injuries left the team without knowing exactly what they had. Now, the Wings appear to be healthy again and have been able to roll out the same defensive pairings over the last couple of weeks.

The consistency, as well as the growth of such youngsters as Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith and the unexpected rise of Brian Lashoff, has the Red Wings feeling good about their chances of reaching the playoffs for the 22nd consecutive spring.

Certainly, general manager Ken Holland was ecstatic that undrafted free agent defenseman Danny DeKeyser decided to stay close to his boyhood home and commit to the Red Wings. But the former Western Michigan standout isn’t the only reason Holland is smiling more these days.

“When training camp started in September, we weren’t really sure on Brian Lashoff,” he said. “All of a sudden through injuries he gets an opportunity and has done a great job. Brendan Smith, we knew was going to be on the team, but he’s getting better all the time. Certainly, Jakub Kindl’s been a great story for us. He’s a guy that’s paid his dues and with Lidstrom and (Brian) Rafalski and (Brad) Stuart and (Niklas) Kronwall and (Jonathan) Ericsson he really hasn’t had much of an opportunity. Now with opportunity he’s taken it and run.”

DeKeyser, who played the last three seasons at Western Michigan University, adds more depth to the Red Wings’ blue line that already features Kyle Quincey, Ian White, Carlo Colaiacovo, Ericsson, Kornwall, Kindl, Smith and Lashoff.

Colaiacovo, who missed most of the season with a shoulder injury, is currently with the Grand Rapids Griffins on a conditioning assignment, and Kent Huskins was traded to Philadelphia on Saturday, thus making room for DeKeyser on the 23-man roster.

“Getting Danny is a real good deal for us, but we’ve got Lash, and we’ve got Smitty, and Kindl’s a kid too,” Babcock said. “It’s not like Kronwall and E and these guys are old either. Quinc isn’t old, so it’s a real good situation for our team.”

It’s not just the current roster, either, that that the Red Wings are excited about. Detroit holds the rights to several other top defensemen around the world, including St. Cloud State junior Nick Jensen, a fifth-round pick in 2009, who was named WCHA defenseman of the year in a vote of 12 league coaches.

“One of the best defensemen of the Quebec Junior League is Xavier Ouellet, the leading scoring defenseman in the OHL is Ryan Sproul,” Holland said. “We’ve got a couple guys in Europe, (Alexei) Marchenko and (Mattias) Backman, so, it appears we’ve got some defensemen on the horizon and we’ve got some young guys on the team.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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