The Red Wings recalled Hicketts from the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins and are putting him in the lineup Tuesday against the Edmonton Oilers.
"We've been in kind of spot on the left side where we don't have any other lefties, so you basically have to play the three guys you have," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "I heard Joe's played very well down there. Joe brings two things to the table all the time -- swagger and confidence. We need some swagger and confidence. Speaking with Steve Yzerman, Ryan Martin, Ben Simon, he's done a much better job of playing with that swagger and confidence within the structure of the system. That's the step that I think he's taken, according to what I saw in preseason and the reports, and if he has taken that, I think he can help us.
"Joe is easy to discount and say he doesn't look like an NHL skill set from a size and skating standpoint but he's got those other factors that sometimes overcomes everything. We're going to give him a chance to play tonight and hope he plays great."
While he only has 16 NHL games under his belt, Hicketts has learned a few things after being in the Detroit organization since the 2014-15 season.
"It's definitely getting easier," Hicketts said. "The first one, you're almost shaking when you get it. The second one, you just want to prove you can play. This one, it's . . . you know, I've learned in the last three-plus years what I need to do at the professional level. Now I just have to come do it. I don't have to show anyone I'm the next Drew Doughty. I gotta come in here and I gotta be the best player I can be. That's keeping it simple, make a good first play and make the right play."
Hicketts, 23, has been doing just that in Grand Rapids, leading the team's defensemen with seven points, all assists, in eight games.
He is tied with center Michael Rasmussen for third on the team in points. Chris Terry leads with 11 (4-7-11) and Matt Puempel is second with nine (5-4-9).
"First off, I'm very excited to be back," Hicketts said. "I think every time you come back for training camp and you come in with a mindset that you want to stick. I went down with the right attitude. I played really well. I played hard. And I've contributed offensively while keeping a defensively strong game. I think that's what you need at that level. Prove you can play defensively sound and then chip in when you can."
Blashill said there is no defenseman other than Danny DeKeyser that is injured, meaning a healthy player will sit.
Based on what Blashill said about the lefties, that would indicate it is Dennis Cholowski who is out.
Blashill has often said there are several ways to help a young player develop and one of those ways is by having the player sit out, a method he has used in the past with Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou.
"I'm hoping Joe can come in here and give us a boost," Blashill said. "Sometimes we've gotta sit guys out to make sure they understand there's better in them and that's ultimately what we're going to do tonight."
PERLINI WON'T PLAY AGAINST OILERS: On Monday, the Wings traded defensive prospect Alec Regula to the Chicago Blackhawks for forward Brendan Perlini, originally the Arizona Coyotes' first-round pick, 12th overall, in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
Blashill said Perlini would not play Tuesday against the Oilers but would travel to Detroit, watch the game, practice with the team and then possibly play Friday in Carolina.
"I had a chance to speak with him last night, I've spoken with some of his past coaches," Blashill said. "It doesn't take much to watch him on tape and see he's a big guy who can really skate and really shoot. So he's got a really good skill set, that's why he went 12th overall. He's been on two teams where it hasn't necessarily gone great. He's on his third team. I think sometimes when guys go through struggles, they can come out stronger on the other end. That's what we're hoping, that with the opportunity he's going to have here, with the learned things he's had to go through and learned along the way, that he can come in here and make an impact for us, but we'll see."
Perlini is 6-foot-3, 212 pounds. He had 14 goals and seven assists in 57 games with the Coyotes in 2016-17. The following season, he had 17 goals and 13 assists in 74 games with the Coyotes.
On Nov. 25, 2018, the Coyotes traded Perlini to the Blackhawks with Dylan Strome in exchange for forward Nick Schmaltz.
"One, I'm a big believer that sometimes you get guys at the right time where they're ready to really be coached and look in the mirror and say I got to be better at these things," Blashill said. "We'd be fools to think there isn't things that he's got to get better at. I'm hoping he recognizes that and I think sometimes it can just be the timing of it. If we can get him to play with the detail in his game that it's necessary to play with to be successful, if we can get him to play at that high level every night, to use that skill set, he'll be really good for us.
"So what can we do? Everything that other people have done. There's really good coaches in this league, he's played for real good coaches. Sometimes it's timing and I'm hoping the timing is such that he's really ready to dig in and understand he's got to get better at certain things and he comes here and blossoms. The one thing we can give him is a clean slate and No. 2, give him opportunity. We have both those things. He's going to get a clean slate. I make judgments based on what I see not what others have seen, and two, he's going to get opportunity here."
Back in the day, Perlini played with Dylan Larkin on the Belle Tire bantam team that won a national championship in 2010-11.
But Blashill said he would not play Perlini with Larkin unless he were to earn that spot.
OILERS AGAIN: Just as the last time the Wings played the Oilers, Edmonton has the league's top power play, hitting on 33.3 percent of their chances.
On Oct. 18, a 2-1 loss in Edmonton, the Wings only took two penalties and killed them both.
"We want to stay out of the box," Blashill said. "I'd like to avoid puck over the glass and too many men penalties. That would be an easy start. Then beyond that, you certainly want to stay out of the box. Every game has a little bit of life of its own and the referees have something to say about it. Some guys call it tighter than others. We certainly don't want to be in the box much against them."
Although he hasn't played against him in the NHL, Givani Smith did play against Oilers superstar Connor McDavid in the OHL.
"He's a fast player," Smith said. "You gotta stay ahead of him. We had to stay ahead of him, slow him down, grab him, kind of get in his way. He doesn't like to play a hard game so if we can do that, defend hard against him, we're going to see some positives coming from that."
Hicketts once was able to call McDavid a teammate but has not played against him at this level.
"I got an opportunity to play with McDavid at world juniors," Hicketts said. "I know the talent level on him is extremely high. He's got extremely high-end speed and he's got great hockey IQ. And then you pair that with a big body in (Leon) Draisaitl and (James) Neal, they can be lethal, especially on the power play. So tonight, it's about keeping it simple, staying out of the box for the team and hopefully I can help end this skid here."