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Steady Stuart is a lift for Wings' defense

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
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DETROIT – In a season where nearly all of his teammates have missed playing time because of injuries, Brad Stuart has been an anomaly.

The 10-year veteran is just one of three players to appear in all 46 games for the Red Wings this season. Yet, understandably so, the hard-hitting defenseman doesn’t garner a lot of notoriety from fans. He’s not much of an offensive defenseman – two goals and seven assists – but that hasn’t diminished his value to the team.

“He’s been playing tremendous for us,” Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “He’s been helping out on the power play and he still gets in his big hits when he can. But he’s been solid in his own end and rarely does he get beat.”

Never has Stuart’s steadiness been more vital to the Wings’ success then it was in December when the team played some stretches without the defensive trio of Brian Rafalski, Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson.

Still, the Wings managed to finish December with a 7-5-2 record and stay within striking distance of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. In those 14 games, Stuart had two assists – including one on Todd Bertuzzi’s OT game-winner against Anaheim on Dec. 11 – and a minus-2 rating.

For his efforts, Stuart was selected as the Carharrt Hardest Working Player of the Month by the Red Wings’ coaching staff. He received his award from Carhartt sponsorship and event specialist Sanja Zarubica during a pre-game ceremony prior to the start of Thursday’s Wings-Hurricanes game at Joe Louis Arena.
“He’s had more chances to play in different situations a little bit more,” Lidstrom said, “like the power play, which he didn’t play on before. Now you see more of him on the ice, and the coaching staff now knows that he can contribute in other situations, and that has given him more confidence.”

Stuart's Jan. 2008 arrival in Detroit from Los Angeles couldn't have come at a better time for the Red Wings, who stumbled a bit down the stretch of the 2007-08 regular-season with injuries to five defensemen. But once he was paired with the bone-crunching Kronwall, Detroit regrouped and held on to win the Presidents' Trophy and eventually the Stanley Cup.

As much as Stuart’s game log this year has been a departure from the norm – he hasn’t played a full 82-game season since 2001-02 with San Jose – his gaff that led to goal bad goal for the New York Islanders last Tuesday is an equal deviation from the standard.

“He’s quietly efficient out there,” rookie goalie Jimmy Howard said. “He does all of the little things right. Very rarely, rarely is he out of position or does he make a blunder. For me to be able to play behind him, it’s just awesome.”

During the regular-season, Carhartt has presented the monthly award to the hardest working Red Wings’ player, along with Carhartt merchandise. The award, in its third season, recognizes the player for his hard work and individual dedication to commitment necessary to excel on the ice. The Red Wings’ coaching staff and front office personnel select the monthly recipients.

Stuart is only the third Wings’defenseman, and the 15th overall recipient, of the award. Forward Pavel Datsyuk has won the award the most, laying claim to it three times. Power forward Johan Franzen has received the award twice with goalies Chris Osgood and Jimmy Howard, forwards Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula, Dan Cleary and Marian Hossa, and defensemen Andreas Lilja and Rafalski each winning once.

For over 115 years, Carhartt has manufactured premium workwear known for exceptional durability, comfort, quality of construction, and fit that you can feel in the fabrics and see in the performance. Established in 1889, Carhartt is family-owned and operated with over 4,000 employees dedicated to providing Best-in-Class apparel for the active worker.

Carhartt and the Red Wings would like to recognize Brad Stuart for his outstanding work and success during October and wish him continued success throughout the 2009-10 season.

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