RALEIGH, N.C. – Having clinch a playoff berth on Thursday, the Red Wings will use tonight’s game to rest some players, namely stars Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.
Defenseman Niklas Kronwall and goalie Jimmy Howard have also been given the night off, while another guy won’t play either, but not because rest is needed.
“Everything’s a reflection of everything you do. That’s just life,” coach Mike Babcock said when pressed on Brendan Smith’s status for the regular-season finale against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena.
Smith will be a healthy scratch for the first time this season.
The Wings weren’t real happy with his minor interference penalty that he took while seated on the team bench in Montreal Thursday night. The unusual infraction gave the Canadiens a 5-on-3 man advantage late in the game. Unfortunately for Smith and the Wings, the Habs used the opportunity to even the score at 3-3, and they eventually won in overtime.
“Obviously, I regret them scoring and me somehow getting a penalty,” Smith said following Saturday’s morning skate. “It’s a weird play, weird call. It’s confusing when a lot of sticks touch the puck or hands that are over the boards.”
As the puck came over the boards at the Wings’ bench, Smith swatted it back in play.
“I thought it was coming into the bench and I just whacked it out,” he said. “I thought P.K. (Subban) touched it last so I thought it was going to be an outside faceoff. In my mind, I thought worse comes to worse, it’s going to be an inside faceoff, but then they gave me a penalty.”
The four on-ice officials convened for a short time before assessing a two-minute bench minor on Smith at 11:07 of the period.
“I thought they were huddling to figure out which zone (the faceoff) should be in,” Smith said. “When they called the penalty, I didn’t even realize it was a penalty until coach told me to go to the box. I think in the rules if you impede on the ice that’s a penalty, but if it’s out of bounds I don’t know. I really think it’s a murky call.”
Because it was a bench penalty, Riley Sheahan, who was on the ice at the time of the call, had to serve the two minutes.
Left Wing - DET
Goals: 17 | Assists: 49 | Pts: 68
Shots: 227 | +/-: -6
For the third time in his career, and the first since 2011-12, Zetterberg finishes as the Wings’ leading point producer.
In his first season back since lumbar spine surgery 14 months ago, the Wings’ captain registered 17 goals and 66 points in 77 games. He missed four games in February with a concussion after Dallas Stars’ Jamie Benn punched him in the head.
Besides Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Howard and Kronwall are all getting extra rest before the Stanley Cup playoffs begin next week.
“We’ve had a bunch of guys playing who shouldn’t have been playing for a period of time and so they are out,” Babcock said.
PLAYOFF POSITIONING: The Red Wings need one point against Carolina tonight to clinch the No. 3 seed in the Atlantic Division, thus setting up a first-round playoff series against the second seed in the division, which could be either Tampa Bay or Montreal.
A victory tonight would give the Wings 100 points for the 17th time in the past 20 full seasons. Detroit finished with 93 points a season ago.
“We’re doing everything we can to win the hockey game,” Babcock said. “We’re getting prepared to play hard. They’re going to play hard, I guarantee you. It’s the last game. They want to win; we want to win. And now suddenly it’s a different group that has to lead the way. I think it’s a real good opportunity for me to evaluate and for them to show.”
Detroit recalled rookie defenseman Alexey Marchenko, who played a dozen games with the Wings prior to last month’s trade deadline when the club acquired right-handed shooting veteran defenseman Marek Zidlicky.
Marchenko will be paired with Danny DeKeyser on the blue line.
Marchenko was disappointed last month when he was send back to AHL Grand Rapids. He had a goal and two points in 12 games for the Wings. But he views tonight as another opportunity to prove that he’s ready to be a full-time NHL defenseman.
“For me every game is big,” Maarchenko said. “Every time you hit the ice in the NHL you get something from the game. They speed up the game, you try to adjust to it. I try to be better every game, help the team, learn how to communicate with your partner. So every game is big for me.”
Defenseman Jakub Kindl and forwards Daniel Cleary and Tomas Jurco will also be pressed into service against the Hurricanes, who will miss the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.
MRAZEK CHANCE: Petr Mrazek
Goalie - DET
GAA: .914 | Sv%: 2.48
will get his 34th career start with the Wings when he goes against the Hurricanes for the second time this season.
With some uncertainty about who will be the starting goalie in Game 1 of their opening playoff series, Mrazek has an opportunity to grab that role from Howard with a good performance against the Hurricanes.
“It’s a good challenge, last game of the season,” he said. “Howie’s the guy but you want to show you’re in the playoff mode. You have to be ready and you never know.”
But Mrazek has to be better than his last three outings. Since he shut-out the Lightning on March 28, Mrazek has stumbled a bit. In his last three starts he’s 0-2-1 with a 2.99 goals-against average and a .898 save percentage. He was also pulled after allowing four goals on 11 shots against the New York Islanders.
“When you’re a big time goalie you don’t talk about it,” Babcock said. “You don’t talk about bounce back games, you don’t talk about the bad goals. You talk about how many saves the guy makes. That’s all part of the business. It’s a hard, hard position. You need mental toughness to keep playing, to believe in yourself, to find your game, to have your dips be short. We all go through cycles. You’ve got to keep them as short as you possibly can. Obviously, the more talent you have and the harder headed you are and the more passion you have and the more you work on your craft the shorter the down times are.”