DETROIT – October was a rough month for Brian Lashoff.
But with a new month brings a new opportunity for the 24-year-old defenseman, who was the odd man out of the Red Wings’ defensive rotation for the first 10 games.
Lashoff is scheduled to make his season debut Sunday in an Atlantic Division match-up against the Sabres at Buffalo’s First Niagara Center.
“It’s been a tough year for me,” said Lashoff, the youngest D-man on the team’s current roster. “I’ve got an opportunity to contribute and do something about it. Started last year the same way and I’ve just ben biding my time and getting ready for this opportunity and I’m going to take advantage of it.”
Lashoff enters Sunday’s lineup after Kyle Quincey sustained an ankle injury during the first period of Friday’s 5-2 home win against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
Quincey has appeared in team-leading 102 straight regular-season games, has been ruled out for Sunday’s game. He’s day to day but did join the team on their three-game trip that will take them to Ottawa and New York for Eastern Conference games against the Senators and Rangers.
The 6-foot-3 Lashoff has been a key contributor, especially as a more than dependable penalty killer, ever since his Detroit arrival early in the NHL lockout-shortened season. He’s averaged 2:20 of shortened ice time in the past two seasons, while producing two goals and 11 points in 106 regular-season games.
“Lash is a good pro, he’s worked real hard, he’s going to be an important penalty killer for us, was last year,” coach Mike Babcock said. “He gets his opportunity and when you get your opportunity you gotta make good and you gotta carve out a little niche for yourself, so make it a competition for the other guys.”
Lashoff predicts that his biggest obstacle Sunday will be just getting re-acclimated to regular-season game pace.
“Little things like your gap and getting back to pucks are two things that are important for our team and for our success,” Lashoff said. “Those are two things that I’ll have to concentrate on the most, especially gapping out there and making sure I don’t have too much space between myself and the opposing forwards. Sometimes when you get a lot of time off it might seem like it might be tough but I think in practice we do a god job of doing a lot of drills.”
Keeping things simple and completing break-out passes to the forwards will also be critical for Lashoff as he looks to build confidence immediately.
“My transition game, going back to get pucks and getting them up the boards as quick as possible is something that I want to improve on,” he said. “It’s something I’ve worked on in practice, in the preseason and training camp. I think they know what to expect from me. I’m going to battle, penalty kill and do what I do. But at the same time, I want to get better at some things like moving the puck quick and getting involved in the offense.”
Other lineup changes against the Sabres include the return of forward Johan Franzen, who missed the last six games with a groin injury. Because center Stephen Weiss (groin) was placed on injured reserve on Friday, the Wings won’t need to make a roster move to clear space for Franzen’s return.
However, rookie forward Andrej Nestrasil will likely be a healthy scratch to make room for Franzen in the lineup.
“We’ve talk about all the time, you never seem to have all hands on deck totally,” Babcock said. “Up front right now we would. He should be fresh, energize. Anytime you’re away for a while you don’t probably skate the way you’d like to and it doesn’t show the first game. But we’re going to play three games in four nights just like L.A. did and it’s a mental toughness battle, an energy battle, and a sleep battle. All these things this week are important for us. Getting Mule back to help us is important.”
Defense - DET
Goals: 0 | Assists: 1 | Pts: 1
Shots: 11 | +/-: -1
For the first time this season, the Red Wings will play a stretch of three road games in four nights with contests against the Sabres, Senators and Rangers.
It’s the first lengthy road trip for the Wings, who are 2-1-1 away from Joe Louis Arena this season.
“We had a little meeting before practice today about how to take care of ourselves,” defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. “We have to be professional not just practicing and playing games, we have to take care of our bodies. If it’s sleeping enough, eating enough and then eating right and at the right times, we’ve gotta be professional with whatever we do.”
The Red Wings will play three more road games in four nights in February when they visit Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose, from Feb. 23-26.
Center - DET
Goals: 4 | Assists: 4 | Pts: 4
Shots: 15 | +/-: 1
Four Red Wings players had multiple point performances in the team’s 5-2 win over the Kings on Friday, including Gustav Nyquist
and Pavel Datsyuk
who each picked up three points. For Nyquist, it was the third three-point game of his career. Datsyuk picked up three points for the first time since Dec. 19, 2013, extending his point streak to five straight games, which is a personal best to begin a season. His previous best streak to start a season was 2002-03 when he produced points in three straight games. … Defenseman Niklas Kronwall
tallied two assists, giving him 303 career points, tying the late Gary Bergman
for fourth on the franchise’s all-time points list among defensemen.