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Ericsson, Helm, Leino assigned to Griffins

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – The numbers game finally caught up to the Stanley Cup champion Red Wings, who were forced to make several tough roster decisions prior to the league’s Wednesday deadline.

Teams have until 3 p.m. EDT Wednesday to trim their rosters to at least 23-players.

Six players over the limit, the Red Wings decided to send forwards Darren Helm and Ville Leino, and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson to their American Hockey League affiliate in Grand Rapids. Veteran enforcer Aaron Downey was placed on waivers, and forward Darren McCarty (groin), goalie Jimmy Howard (finger) and defenseman Chris Chelios (fractured tibia) are on injured reserve.

“They are tough decisions,” coach Mike Babcock said. “They’re good players and good people, and everybody wants to be on the big team. There are only 23 spots here or 22 depending on cap numbers, so some guys aren’t going to be very happy today, that’s just the way it is.”

Downey, who played in a career-high 56 NHL games last season with Red Wings, was disappointed, but understands the business-side of the Red Wings’ decision. If he clears waivers, he can be send down to Grand Rapids.

“Right now I’m on waivers,” Downey said. “We’ll wait 24 hours and see what happens. Given the circumstances, I don’t know what’s going to happen to be honest with you. At the end of the day, the list has to be done by (Wednesday) at three o’clock. If I have to go down to Grand Rapids, I guess I’ll go down to Grand Rapids, but like I say, it’s 24 hours and let’s see what happens.

Rookie left wing Ville Leino scored three goals with three assists in eight preseason games for the Red Wings.
The Wings will start the season with 22 players on the active roster -- 12 forwards, eight defensemen and two goalies. The fate of defenseman Kyle Quincey is still unclear, despite recent local radio reports that he might be traded.

“Right now on the short term, we can keep our players, because we’re putting McCarty and Chelios on IR,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “Ultimately, at some point in time, once McCarty and Chris Chelios come off, we’re going to have to make some moves; we’re going to be capped out. I am talking and exploring the market. … But there is no doubt that at some point we’re going to have to trade somebody.” 

Asked if he thought another team might claim him, Downey said, “We’re in a cap era now. If it was a couple of years ago when it wasn’t a cap era, yeah, it would be no problem at all. With the cap era now, it’s all about numbers. You just have to carry a good attitude and I believe that when one door closes the next door opens.

“I know that I had a good camp and I can look myself in the mirror and I say, I made some good improvement s this year. I worked on my skating this summer and I feel that I’m quicker. I feel that I’m among the top five enforcers in the league. I believe that I do my job excellent, so at the end of the team I really believe this team needs me, especially this year because they’re going to be gunning for you. When you’re at the top of that mountain, people start coming.”

On paper, the Red Wings are arguably one of the most prepared teams to defend a Stanley Cup title since they last did so in 1998. With talented young players like Helm, Leino and Ericsson playing in the minor league system, the Red Wings are well stocked with available talent.

“We send some good, young talent down today in Helm and Leino, that if we do falter a little bit that we can call these players up and they can make a difference,” Holland said.

Leino, 25, was the second-leading scorer in the Finnish Elite League last season, scoring 28 goals with 49 assists for Jokerit Helsinki. He showed that scoring touch during the preseason with the Red Wings, netting three goals and three assists in eight games.

Last spring, Helm made his presence known during the Red Wings’ run to the Cup. Though he only played in seven regular-season games for Detroit, he appeared in 18 playoff games averaging more than seven-minutes of ice time.

“I said to Ken today that this is the best players that I have ever been involved in sending to the minors,” Babcock said. "I think (Helm) and Leino are two different players. To me they both are NHL players, and made the team. We just didn't have the space for them."

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