DETROIT – Faced with three injured forwards, the Red Wings called-up center Mark Hartigan from their AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids on Thursday.
Hartigan will make his Red Wings’ debut tonight against the Tamp Bay Lightning at Joe Louis Arena.
“Every time you get a chance to get called-up and get an opportunity, you want to take full advantage,” said Hartigan, 30. “I’m just going to play my part, take the body, play with energy and try to chip in here and there if I get a chance.”
Hartigan leads the Griffins and is tied for fourth in the AHL with 11 goals. He also leads Grand Rapids with five power play goals and is tied for second with 17 points through 20 games.
“He’s been the best player, according to Jim Nill, and the American League as far as a forward goes,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Our other option was to play (Derek) Meech and have seven (defensemen). We thought it was more important to have four lines.
Hartigan appeared in 79 career NHL contests with Atlanta, Columbus and Anaheim, totaling 16 goals and 10 assists.
“He’s a talented kid, real good with the puck,” Babcock said. “He’s just got to play with some tempo, and he’s right there on the cusp of being an NHL player. Is he going to learn that he’s not a top six NHL forward and he’s going to have to play a different way? In other words, that he’s going to have to play great defensively, good in the face-off circle, and if you can get a guy to do that, with his offensive skill, he can chip in a bit.”
Hartigan will center the fourth line between Tomas Kopecky and Aaron Downey. Kopecky will be back in the lineup for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury against St. Louis on Nov. 21.
As a fourth liner, Downey said the object is to get the puck in deep and play with plenty of energy. Hartigan brings that to the ice.
“He’s a guy who’s been around a time or two,” Downey said. “He can really shoot the puck, boy. He’s a real crafty player, and it’s always nice playing with guys like that because they have lots of energy, and he’s got lots of enthusiasm. He’s a fun guy to play with.
“I remember playing with him in the preseason and he works real hard. He knows how to get you the puck, but he also knows how to shoot the puck from pretty much any angle. He can fire the puck.”
The Wings will face the Lightning tonight without forwards Kirk Maltby (sore shoulder), Kris Draper (sprained knee) and Matt Ellis (headaches).
Draper is out for 10 days or more after a collision along the boards during the first period of Tuesday’s 5-3 win over Calgary, and Ellis hasn’t played since Thanksgiving night when he absorbed a heavy hit to the head against Nashville. He hopes to return to the lineup next week. Babcock indicated that Malty is day-to-day.
“He came in and wasn’t good enough to go,” Babcock said following Thursday’s morning skate.
Tonight’s game will be the seventh game that Maltby has missed in six seasons. He has played in all 82 regular-season games in four of the last five seasons.