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Wings fight through two more injuries

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Red Wings rookie engaged in his first career fight with a second-period bout with Chicago's Andrew Shaw. (Photo by Dave Sandford)
DETROIT – Don’t expect the Red Wings to hang their collective heads after losing two more players to injuries Sunday at Joe Louis Arena.

“Injuries come to every team through the course of the year, and now it’s bit us a little bit, but at the same time nobody is really thinking too much about it,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “We can’t lay down and feel sorry for ourselves. Whoever is out there, they need to make sure that he does whatever is required of him and we’ll go from there.”

For the second time in eight days, more than one player has left the game due to an injury. On Sunday, goalie Jimmy Howard and defenseman Jakub Kindl couldn’t finish Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Chicago after they were bitten by the injury bug.

Howard and Kindl are just the latest players added to the Wings’ M*A*S*H unit, joining Nicklas Lidstrom (right ankle), Pavel Datsyuk (left knee) and Jonathan Ericsson (left wrist), who remain out of the Wings' lineup.

Kindl aggravated an undisclosed upper-body injury during his second shift Sunday, and Howard suffered a lower-body injury at some point in the first period and did not return after the first intermission.

“All I can tell you is it's a lower-body injury and it's day-to-day,” Howard said. “I don't think it's too serious. I'll get it looked at tomorrow morning and we'll go from there.

“Throughout the period it was just getting tighter and tighter, they decided to take me out. Go tomorrow morning to get it looked at and hopefully it's not too serious. Hopefully, I can bounce back quick.”

Joey MacDonald played the final two-periods and earned just his second loss since he was recalled from Grand Rapids when Howard fractured his right index finger in Vancouver at the start of February.

For the second time in the last four games, the Wings were force to finish a game with five defensemen when Kindl left the game early in the first period.

Last Saturday, three Wings’ defensemen suffered injuries when Lidstrom, Ericsson and Kyle Quincey (groin) were all hurt in a 4-3 loss to Colorado. Lidstrom and Quincey finished the game but missed the next start last Tuesday in Columbus.

Lidstrom has since missed two additional games, including Sunday’s contest, and Ericsson likely won’t return to the Wings’ lineup before early April.

Playing with five defensemen can cause problems, particularly when it comes to communicating with partners and making changes to the defensive pairings on the fly.

The problem can be compounded for guys who are new to the system, like Quincey and rookie Brendan Smith.

“It's a little hard and sometimes it can be a little frustrating because you don't know who you're going to go out with next shift,” Smith said. “It's tough on everybody once you drop to five D. I just think you have to play the situation. We're all good hockey players here and I'm glad they had a lot of faith in me in a lot of different situations.

“It is tough, but this is where I want to be and if I want to prove myself I have to play the way I did and even better, so hopefully next game if something happens like this I can even play better.”

Kronwall was fortunate that he wasn’t injury twice during one penalty-kill shift in the first period. First, the Wings’ defenseman took a bouncing puck in the chin off of a Patrick Kane shot and then in the left foot that was redirected past Howard on Patrick Sharp’s goal.

But Kronwall redeemed himself when he scored the team’s lone goal on his next shift. Taking a perfect pass from Darren Helm, Kronwall fired a one-timer that beat Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery.

“When the puck goes off of you like the first one,” Kronwall said, “it was obviously nice to get that one back fairly soon right after.”

Just when it seemed like it couldn’t get any worse for the Wings, they were forced to play five-minutes with only four defenseman when Smith engaged with fellow rookie Andrew Shaw for his first NHL fight.

“I didn't want to go because we only had five D and I didn't want to put the guys down,” Smith said. “He dropped the gloves, so I had no other option or no other chance to get away from it other than turtle ... and I don't do that.”

Wings coach Mike Babcock would have prefer to see his star rookie chose a better time to earn a major penalty, too

“He did a real good job and you like to see kids play real hard,” Babcock said. “When we had five D already, we didn't really need to go to four but when we have six he can do whatever he wants.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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