TAMPA, Fla. – Niklas Kronwall won’t be the only defenseman not in the lineup for the Red Wings when they tangle with the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference first-round series.
Veteran defenseman Marek Zidlicky, who was obtained by the Red Wings at the trade deadline last month, is out for tonight’s win-or-go-home game at Amalie Arena. The 38-year-old suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6 at Joe Louis Arena.
With 8:22 left in the first period, Zidlicky was hit hard by Lightning forward Brenden Morrow, who went after the Wings’ defenseman three times during the shift. Zidlicky did, however, finish Monday’s game.
Rookie Alexey Marchenko and veteran Jakub Kindl will fill the void on the blue line.
“Kindl, last couple games he played, he played really good,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “He’s been looking good in practice so he’s ready to go. Marchenko is a good, good defenseman, solid defenseman and he plays well when he plays. Just gotta go out and play good, good, solid hockey game, everybody, if we do that we have a good chance.”
Kindl, who had 13 points in 35 games during the regular season, has one goal and five points in 18 career playoff games with the Wings. Kindl’s last postseason appearance was in Game 4 against Boston last spring.
Marchenko played in Games 1 and 2 of this series, but was scratched in the next four.
Kronwall is serving a controversial one-game suspension for his illegal hit to the head of Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov in the second period of Game 6. Kucherov will play in Game 7.
Coach Mike Babcock wasn’t interesting in revisiting old news, saying, “I think if I talk about Game 7 then I won’t get fined.”
In Wednesday’s morning skate, the Wings defensive pairings were Jonathan Ericsson and Marchenko; Kyle Quincey and Danny DeKeyser; and Kindl and Brendan Smith. However, those pairings could switch depending on the flow and pace of tonight’s game.
Babcock said he anticipates that Marchenko and Kindl won’t have a problem submerging themselves in the Game 7 atmosphere.
“I expect them to play good, they’re Red Wings,” Babcock said. “I expect us to come here and enjoy being in the atmosphere and enjoy being at a Game 7 and get ourselves a win. There’s a deli called Schwartz’s in Montreal that I’m dying to have a sandwich from.”
Zidlicky has played more games – regular season and playoffs combined – than any NHL player this season. After his trade from New Jersey, Zidlicky clicked almost immediately on the Red Wings’ second power play unit, producing three goals and eight assists – all on special teams – in 21 games.
With Kronwall and Zidlicky both sidelined, the Red Wings will be without two valuable pieces to their power play units. The two defensemen, who have combined played in 148 postseason games, man the point of the special teams groups – Kronwall on the first unit, Zidlicky on the second.
Babcock will turn to DeKeyser and Kindl to work the point when the Wings have the man advantage.
“DK might be the best guy at packing the puck up on the breakout on the team,” Babcock said. “He really can swing it from one side to the other. Kindl when he’s in our lineup always played on our second power play. So we’re not concerned about that one bit.”