DETROIT – The Red Wings learned on Monday that rookie defenseman Brendan Smith (shoulder sprain) will be sidelined for maybe longer than first expected. But don’t expect coach Mike Babcock to sulk for a minute over the rash of injuries that has casted a dark cloud over his team.
“Other teams in the league got injuries, too,” Babcock said. “Suck it up and play and find a way to win, that’s the way I look at it. It’s an opportunity for other guys. I'm looking for players, anybody want to grab a job and keep it for 15 years, I’m all for that, too.”
Smith said Monday that he may be out of the lineup for 3-4 weeks after he was injured in the first period of Saturday’s 4-2 loss at Columbus. It was originally thought that Smith would be out for 10-14 days.
The loss of Smith for an extended time is a huge blow to the Red Wings, who are struggling to keep some continuity along with blue line, which is difficult to do when only Niklas Kronwall and Kyle Quincey are the lone defensemen to haven’t missed any time in the first month of the season.
“If you go back to my first year when I first got called up, I think we almost had 10 guys from Grand Rapids up in the lineup,” Kronwall said. “All teams go through sooner or later. It’s now hit us, but we have to find a way through it.”
Kronwall made his NHL debut in Buffalo on Dec. 10, 2003 when the Red Wings were without forwards Steve Yzerman, Henrik Zetterebrg, Tomas Holmstrom, Darren McCarty, Steve Thomas and Ray Whitney, defensemen Chris Chelios and Darian Hatcher, and goalies Dominik Hasek and Manny Legace.
Still, the Wings salvaged a road win that night, defeating the Sabres, 7-2.
Smith chalks up the Wings’ recent injuries to unfortunate circumstances.
“Just bad luck, I mean, with any injury everybody says bad luck, but it’s unbelievable how it seems to be hitting the D side,” Smith said. “It is bad luck, and in my case, for sure, I don’t even know how it even happened.”
Smith absorbed an open-ice hit from Blue Jackets center Derek MacKenzie near the midway point of the first period. Smith left the ice under his own power, and never returned to the game.
Smith, who at the time of his injury was lead all Wings defensemen with a plus-4 rating, said he’s never dealt with a shoulder injury in the past.
“It’s frustrating, I mean, playing well and playing lots of minutes than going to not playing at all is very frustrating,” he said. “Being injured sucks to begin with, but just playing pretty well with lots of minutes than going to playing none is frustrating.”
Meanwhile, Ian Smith, who was injured on Jan. 22 when the heel of Jimmy Howard’s skate blade punctured the defenseman’s left thigh, believes that he may play against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday.
The Wings are still down three defensemen, meaning if White isn’t ready to return to the lineup Tuesday, rookie Brian Lashoff – who had expected to be returned to Grand Rapids over the weekend – will step in.
“I just told Lash two days ago he was going to Grand Rapids,” Babcock said. “Just shows you I lied to him. The truth in our game today and the truth tomorrow are different. Lash was on his way back but now he’s staying.”
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