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Smith, Green, look to jump in the rush

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Defense  - DET
Goals: 3 | Assists: 7 | Pts: 10

Shots: 38 | +/-: 4
GLENDALE, Ariz. – The conventional wisdom of most hockey coaches usually calls for contrasting styles when assigning defensive partners.

In a perfect world, pairing right-handed shooters with left-handers makes passing the puck between partners along the blue line much easier. Also, having a defenseman who’s prone to jump in the rush works best with a stay-at-home partner on his flank.

It’s a philosophy that Mike Babcock subscribed to in his final seasons with the Red Wings.

But Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill seems to be bucking the trend of his predecessor, especially when it comes to pairing two offensive-minded defensemen, like righty Mike Green and lefty Brendan Smith, together.

“I look for the right chemistry on pairings,” Blashill said. “I’ve never been somebody who’s felt you need a stay-at-home with an offensive guy. In fact, sometimes that can be to the detriment. Guys that want to have the puck together, especially when there’s a lefty and righty and you can really control play by moving together, so you have two guys that I would say are really good passers, where sometimes you get a defensive guy and sometimes they don’t pass the puck as well or don’t think on the same offensive wavelength.”

Green carved a reputation as an offensive defenseman in his first 10 NHL seasons in Washington, where he remains fifth in points among all-time Capitals’ defensemen. Smith was a jump-in-the-rush type at the University of Wisconsin, where he led all college defensemen in scoring in 2009-10. In his forth full NHL season, there have been times when Smith has gotten caught up in the rush and had to quickly remind himself to think defense first.

Mike Green
Defense  - DET
Goals: 2 | Assists: 13 | Pts: 15
Shots: 66 | +/-: -4
But now, Blashill sees more positives than negatives in pairing like-minded defensemen like Green and Smith.

“They don’t beat each other up the ice,” Blashill said. “They’ve jumped in the play good. We want to be on the attack with our D-men. So I really like the chemistry, I think they’ve played very well together.”

Green and Alexey Marchenko are the Wings only righty blue liners. The two give Blashill the ability to create two lefty-righty pairings, which he has done most of the season.

However, Marchenko, who skated in 36 straight games since he was recalled from Grand Rapids in October, is a healthy scratch tonight against the Arizona Coyotes.

The Red Wings, who won the first four games of a six-game road trip, which concludes tonight, will deploy four right-handed shots – Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson, and Danny DeKeyser and Kyle Quincey – on the top two pairings.

For roughly half of his 195 career games, DeKeyser has worked with Quincey as a partner. The pair has created a solid bond in that time, which Blashill sees as positive chemistry.

The two routinely draw the assignment of defending the opposition’s top forward line.

“I think DK, he’s as good as anybody in the league from the red line back to our net, both from a breakout standpoint and a defending standpoint,” Blashill said. “He’s got such great defensive instincts. That’s not to say he’s not good from the red line in, but he’s I’ll put him up against anybody in the league. … Anybody we’ve had him paired with, whether it be Ericsson, Marchenko and now Quincey have done a real good job against the other team’s best forwards for the most part. Quincey did this last year all season for a team that went seven games against the representative in the Stanley Cup finals in Tampa and did a real good job.”

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