BUFFALO, N.Y. – The Red Wings are in western New York without two big pieces tonight – Niklas Kronwall and Brad Richards.
While Richards promises to be back in the lineup when the Wings host Anaheim at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday night, Kronwall’s absence will be weeks, not days.
Kronwall had knee surgery on Tuesday and is expected to miss 2-4 weeks before he’ll likely be ready to draw back into the lineup.
The Wings still feel that they’re in good shape because of the kind of depth they have at basically every position.
“Every team goes through injuries and through the course of the season you have to rely on your organizational depth and I think we’ve got good organizational depth,” Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “I felt like we had seven D that all were very capable of being real good defensemen at the NHL level and we could only play six of them. So when Kronner went out we’ve got six that I think are very capable of being really good NHL defensemen. I thought Alexey Marchenko was great last game. He was the one sitting out prior to that. So obviously Nik’s a really good player, but we try to concentrate on the 18 skaters and two goalies that are dressed that night.”
The defense was definitely active for the Red Wings in the opening 20 minutes of Friday’s contest. Despite being out-shot 12-8 by Detroit, the Sabres maintain plenty of puck possession in the offense zone.
The Wings’ defense did their part to help out goalie Petr Mrazek. blocking eight shots in the period, two by Jonathan Ericsson. Meanwhile, Justin Abdelkader, Mike Green, Kyle Quincey, Teemu Pulkkinen, Danny DeKeyser and Dylan Larkin had one blocked shot each.
Making his 63rd career start, and the 29th this season, Mrazek was tested a few times, especially on a tricky play by Rasmus Ristolainen. The Sabres’ defenseman crossed the attacking blue line, dipped passed a Wings’ defender, and made a 360-spin at the top of the left faceoff circle before unleashing a 32-foot shot.
With traffic lined up in front of him on the play, Mrazek made a heady shot to keep the puck out of the Wings’ net.
Detroit had two power plays in the first period, but only mustered one long-distance shot during the second man-advantage from Green at the left point. The Wings’ penalty kill was successful during its only work in the first, making it nine straight kills for the special teams unit.
It was just the second time the Wings and Sabres played to a scoreless period in one of their four meetings this season. They battled to a scoreless first period in the Sabres’ 2-1 win on Dec. 14 at Joe Louis Arena.
DETROIT 0, BUFFALO 0
PENALTIES: 1. BUF, Larsson (hooking), 3:42; 2. DET, Larkin (tripping), 7:24; 3. BUF, C. O’Reilly(interference), 13:33.
SHOTS: Detroit 12, Buffalo 8.
The period had a more fluid up-and-down pace to it than the opening 20 minutes, and both goalies – Mrazek and Robin Lehner.
The Sheahan line with Jurco and Tatar cause some trouble for the Sabres midway through the period. During their shift they combined on three shots while managing to retrieve and possess the puck for nearly a minute.
Brian Gionta had a score chance snuffed out when he couldn’t handle Johan Larsson’s centering pass on a 2-on-1 rush into the Red Wings zone. Larsson threaded a perfectly placed pass that avoided a diving Quincey in the slot. But Gionta appeared to fumble the pass in close and his shovel attempt sailed to the left of Mrazek.
Late in the period, Larkin took a pretty big hit along the end boards deep in the Sabres’ zone. As the pursued a loose puck in the corner he was heavily checked simultaneously by defensemen Zach Bogosian and Ristolainen.
The Wings definitely side step a near catastrophe when DeKeyser escaped serious injury when it appeared that a puck, shot from close range by the Sabres’ Evander Kane, with 2:18 left in the period.
DeKeyser was helped to the bench by team trainer Piet Van Zant, but the defenseman was back on the ice before the end of the period, not missing a single shift.
DETROIT 0, BUFFALO 0
SHOTS: Detroit 15 (27), Buffalo 9 (17).
Abdelkader appeared to be shaken up, albeit momentarily, when he was hit in the side of the head by a Larkin backhand shot from the low slot. The Wings’ forward was battling with defenseman Mike Weber when both tumbled face first to the ice in front of Lehner, and Larkin shipped a backhander that connected with the right side of Abdelkader’s head. He was attended to by Van Zant, but like DeKeyser late in the second, did not miss a shift.
The Red Wings received a four-minute power play when Marcus Foligno received a double minor for high sticking that draw blood from Larkin’s face.
While the four-minute advantage didn’t produce a goal, Larkin, with cotton packed in his left nostril to absorb a bloody nose, he got some justice when he gave the Wings the lead with his 15th goal of the season. The rookie’s initial shot was saved by Lehner. As the Michigan native made his way around the back of the net to the far side Luke Glendening spot him with a perfect pass that Larkin deposited into the empty side of the net.
Larkin picked up a second point when he set up Henrik Zetterberg’s second goal in as many games. Larkin, who has 32 points in 46 games, is now tied with former forward John Ogrodnick (1979-80) for No. 21 on the franchise’s all-time rookie scoring list.
Since scoring four goals at Buffalo Jan. 2, the Red Wings have scored just 15 goals in the last eight games.
The Wings return home to host Anaheim at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday night. The Ducks were to play in Washington on Friday, but the severe snowstorm that descended upon the nation’s capital caused the NHL to postpone the game.
The shutout is Mrazek’s third of the season, the eighth of his career.
DETROIT 3, BUFFALO 0
SCORING: 1. DET, Larkin (Glendening, Ericsson), 12:01; 2. DET, Zetterberg (Larkin), 17:09; 3. DET, Glendening EN (unassisted), 19:11.
PENALTIES: 1. BUF, Foligno (double minor, high sticking), 7:19
SHOTS: Detroit 18 (45), Buffalo 2 (19).