|Sure it's frustrating, but Patrick Eaves remains positive and prepared for when he's called upon to play, as he will Saturday against Nashville. (Photo by Getty Images) |
Nine different Red Wings’ players have been healthy scratches this season. But that doesn’t make forward Patrick Eaves
, who has sat out the last five games, feel any better.
“There’s not really much to talk about. I’ve been waiting to get this opportunity,” said Eaves, who will play tonight against the Nashville Predators – his first time in the lineup since Nov. 15 in St. Louis. “I’ve just been staying in shape and keeping my mind in hockey mode; that’s all you can really do. You can only control what you can control.”
There was a time in Eaves’ career when he was considered a top-six forward. The Wings even tinkered with the idea in training camp of moving him up to the top forward line with Pavel Datsyuk
and Danny Cleary
And despite signing a three-year contract worth $3.6 million last July, Eaves has appeared in just nine games with one assist and an even-rating.
But coach Mike Babcock says don’t read anything into Eaves’ situation that isn’t there.
“Eaves has been fine. The reality is the way our lineup is setup this year, I like Patty to play with two skaters,” Babcock said. “So he’s been the odd man out, not because of things he’s done. He played great in St. Louis. Other guys who aren’t quite as mobile have been using those two skaters. That’s just the way it goes.”
Against the Preds, Eaves will be paired with a pair of elite skaters in center Darren Helm
and forward Jiri Hudler
“As a player you want to play, so it's frustrating in that sense,” Eaves said. “I'm getting better every day (in practice). That's the beauty of the situation. Even though it's not what I want exactly, I'm getting better every day, I'm working hard and I'll be ready.”
Eaves replaces rookie Cory Emmerton
in Saturday’s lineup. Emmerton was shaken up a bit in the third period of Friday’s 3-2 shoot-out win at Boston when he collided with Dennis Seidenberg, who received a kneeing penalty.
Emmerton said that he felt good enough to play, but Babcock made a decision to move Justin Abdelkader
to the fourth line center role.
“It’s didn’t feel very good, obviously, at the start but I was fortunate,” Emmerton said. “I feel fine.”
Watch for Eaves to possibly play a physical role against Nashville. In 14 career games against the Preds, he has 23 hits, the most he’s had against any NHL opponent.
“I know the kind of player I am and the way I need to play,” he said. “That's what I try to focus on and I try to do my best at what I do.”
By the way, in case you're curious about the other eight players who have been healthy scratches, they are Fabian Brunnstrom
(13), Mike Commodore
(10), Emmerton (3), Drew Miller
(2), Jakub Kindl
(2), Tomas Holmstrom
(2), Hudler (1), and Brendan Smith