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The first one hurt so good for Marchenko

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Justin Abdelkader celebrates with Alexey Marchenko after the rookie scored a game-tying goal, the first of his NHL career, in Saturday's 4-3 comeback win at Nashville. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – It never hurt so good to score a goal as it did last weekend for Red Wings defenseman Alexey Marchenko.

The Russian rookie collected his first career NHL goal, but not before suffering an injury to an oblique muscle, which made scoring almost intolerable Saturday in Nashville.

Marchenko said the pain came on suddenly in the second period of the Red Wings’ 4-3 win at Bridgestone Arena.

“I tried to shoot it and I feel a little bit of pain,” Marchenko told DetroitRedWings.com. “Then in the same shift the puck came to me again and I shoot it again and I feel something’s wrong. I felt something in the rib area.”

Marchenko skated to the bench and described what he was feeling to Piet Van Zant, the Wings head trainer.

“Piet said it was probably stretched a little bit,” said Marchenko, pointing to his left side.

The rookie defenseman went out for his next shift to see how much he could tolerate.

“I still felt it and it was hard to shoot and pass,” he said, “but overall it was good.”

Marchenko missed a few shifts, but remained on the bench and played into the third period, where he eventually scored his first career goal on, what else, a 40-foot slap shot.

“Yeah, actually when I shot it it hurt a lot,” Marchenko said of the tying goal that beat the Predators’ Pekka Rinne at 3:56 of the third.

Forward Darren Helm also suffered an oblique injury Saturday. He went down early in the first period and did not return to the game.

Wings general manager Ken Holland said Monday that both players are day to day, but more realistically, it would be 7-10 days before either may return to the lineup.

Marchenko, however, skated for the second straight day on Wednesday, participating in the some drills during the team’s morning skate at Joe Louis Arena.

Helm has not skated since Saturday.

“I hope for me it’s like nothing,” Marchenko said of the muscle strain. “I hope I can be back soon. I can skate and I can easily pass the puck, but I can’t shoot for sure. I can’t pass it hard, but at least I can skate and do some movements and just be with the guys at practice and be in shape. That’s a good thing that I can skate and not just sitting around and watching.”

Though he’s only played in 13 NHL games – 12 in the last month – the Red Wings are thrilled with where Marchenko is in his development as a solid, puck-moving defenseman. It doesn’t hurt that he also adds a different dimension as a right-handed shot on the blue line.

“I like him,” coach Mike Babcock said last month. “He’s never in the scoring chances against. I actually like him better after the game when I watch the tape than I liked him during the game. He’s got to get quicker. He’s going to get quicker but he’s really smart.

“In practice the other day he was our best D man in a drill down low where all kids we call up get eaten up alive. He was outstanding. It’s just practice but that drill exposes everybody and he was real good at it. He’s a right-hand shot, he’s a big guy. I’m hoping that’s our trait.”

Ken Holland played in a 2013 charity game during the Red Wings' training camp in Traverse City. (Photo by Dan Mannes/Detroit Red Wings)

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY: Tuesday in Florida, the Panthers had two goaltenders – starter Roberto Luongo and backup Al Montoya – injured during the game. Montoya was forced to play more than 10 minutes in the third period despite a groin injury, while Luongo finished the game after putting his gear on for a second time.

The Panthers considered putting center Derek MacKenzie in net before goalie coach Robb Tallas dressed for back-up duty.

Of course, the unusual twist, had some wondering who would go in goal if the Red Wings were faced with a similar situation.

“We haven’t had that situation at all,” Babcock said. “We’ll spring Kenny (Holland) out of the booth, put those brown pads like he wears in alumni games and stick him in.”

The Red Wings’ 59-year-old GM played in four NHL games between 1980-84.

Defenseman Brendan Smith said he’d be willing to volunteer for the role in the event Jimmy Howard and Jonas Gustavsson were hurt in the same game.

“Yeah, I'd probably have to do that,” Smith said. “I really think I would.”

Not only does Justin Abdelkader think Smith would be a good chose, he thinks he’d be a willing participant.

“Shoot, that’s a good question. Maybe Smitty,” Abdelkader said. “He’s pretty competitive. He seems to be good at everything. I think he’d volunteer himself.”

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