SAN JOSE, Calif. – As Kyle Quincey prepares to return to the lineup at some point in the next few days, the question is what happens to Alexey Marchenko?
Coach Jeff Blashill was asked that very question after Thursday’s morning skate at SAP Center, where the Red Wings will face-off against the San Jose Sharks later this evening.
“We’re in the day-to-day business,” Blashill said. “I won’t speculate beyond tonight.”
The Wings, who will need to make some room under the salary cap before Quincey can be activated, do have options. They can reassign Marchenko to Grand Rapids; place someone on waivers and risk losing him to another team for no return; or solicit a trade.
It’s expected that the 24-year-old Marchenko will play in at least one more game since drawing into the lineup in late October after it was learned that Quincey needed surgery to remove bone spurs from his right ankle.
Since being called up from AHL Grand Rapids, Marchenko has four assists with a minus-3 rating. But it’s in the advanced statistics – kept by the Red Wings’ front office personnel – that reveals the Russian’s true importance.
“I think he’s done a good job through the course of the year, he doesn’t give up many chances,” Blashill said. “I look through our chances against for the first 40 games and especially our Grade A chances against – the ones we keep internally, not the ones kept through the league – he’s probably got the least amount of Grade A chances against of any of the defensemen.
“When he’s playing his best hockey he manages the game well. He can make good pop-out passes, he’s had to learn to not to bite off too much and make sure if it’s there make it and if not don’t make any hope plays. He’s smart defensively and makes a lot of defensive plays.”
Like his coach though, Marchenko said he doesn’t look beyond the present.
“It's up to me to play good every night that I'm in the lineup and after the game (coach) decide who's going to play next game," Marchenko said. “I don't know, just play the game and if I see my name in the lineup, I have to do my best to help the team to win."
Playing on a consistent basis has certainly helped Marchenko maintain a level of confidence.
“I think it's good,’ he said. “You feel the game, you play most every second day so you're always in game shape, you always feel the puck, feel the pace of the game so it's great to be in the lineup every night.”
One thing the 6-foot-3 blue liner won’t do is critique his past performances.
“If we win, it's a good game, you know,” he said. “I don't want to judge myself, we need to win every night.”
Teammates like the commitment that Marchenko has brought to the back end in a short period of time.
“I’ve always been a fan of Marchy,” forward Gusav Nyquist said. “The first time he came up here he was just an all-around, solid, real solid defenseman. He’s extremely strong on his stick, good at keeping pucks in the O zone on the wall and strong on the puck in the D zone. H’s good at penalty killing and clearing pucks and being strong with good stick work. I think that’s one of his specialties, his stick work.”
Though he’s only played in 47 NHL games, Marchenko has benefited from playing in Russia’s pro league. He played parts of four seasons for CSKA Moscow in the Kontinential Hockey League before arriving in North America in 2013-14.
“I’m sure his path has helped him a little bit,” Nyquist said. “He played pro in Russia so he knows the pro game, and spent time in Grand Rapids too. He’s really gone a different and long way, but now he’s here and he looked ready right from the get go, so good for him. He’s a really important part of our D group.”
Center - DET
Goals: 6 | Assists: 6 | Pts: 12
Shots: 69 | +/-: -10
In two short games, the Red Wings have seemingly found a pretty good third-line combination with center Riley Sheahan
and forwards Dylan Larkin
and Brad Richards
In wins at Buffalo and New Jersey, the trio has amassed three goals, four assists and 12 shots with a combined plus-6 rating.
“It’s fun to change things up,” Sheahan said. “I think we all complement each other well and if we can just stay sound defensively and have a guy like Larks create so much space with his speed and a guy like Richie making plays and getting shots through it’s fun. Obviously it’s a new experience, but it’s good. We’ve had a good run these last two games.”
Blashill likes the direction that the third line has taken.
“Within your line it’s up to each individual player to play at a high level and I think those three guys as a group have played together at a high level the last two games,” he said. “It certainly hasn’t been just one guy. … It’s a line we think continues to give us depth of scoring. We’re going to need that as we move through the second half of the year.”
WELCOME BACK, MILLER AND JURCO: Drew Miller
Left Wing - DET
Goals: 1 | Assists: 1 | Pts: 2
Shots: 26 | +/-: -5
(broken jaw) and Tomas Jurco
(upper body) return to the Wings’ lineup tonight in San Jose. The pair will be reunited with center Luke Glendening
on the fourth line.
For several seasons, Miller has been one of the league’s most dominant penalty killers, leading all NHL forwards in blocked shots for five straight seasons. Though he’s missed the past 14 games, Miller’s 30 blocks are second most among Red Wings’ forwards. Only Glendening (35) has more.
“Our penalty kill has been struggling, so Millsie is one of our leaders out there,” Sheahan said. “He sacrifices his body to block shots and he’s always in the right position and he’s got a great stick, so when you can have a guy like that in your lineup it definitely helps.”
Without Miller in the lineup, the penalty kill has allowed 13 goals in 14 games. Prior to Miller’s injury, the opposing power plays registered 11 goals in 26 games.
“He’s an elite defensive player, he’s got elite defensive smarts, that’s why he’s been able to be a good player in this league for a long time,” Blashill said. “He’s been an elite penalty killer. He brings that ability to sort out plays that you don’t necessarily draw out but in this fluid game of hockey you got to be able to sort out. He does it as well as anybody.”