DETROIT – Already missing Pavel Datsyuk, Erik Cole and Riley Sheahan from Tuesday’s lineup, the Red Wings lost their current iron man on a very scary play.
Barely a minute into the game Drew Miller left the ice after suffering a frightening facial injury. He was cut during his first shift by an errant skate blade.
The Wings’ fourth-line left wing suffered two deep lacerations – one to the right cheek, the other above his right eye – at 1:04 of the opening period.
According to team officials, it appeared Miller did not sustain damage to the eye or his vision.
“It’s a scary moment for sure,” said defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who was on the ice when Miller was hurt. “We all found out fairly quick that he was going to be OK. Of course a nasty gash, but hopefully he’ll be all right. It sounds like he will.”
The right skate of Senators rookie Mark Stone struck Miller in the face, knocking his visor and helmet upward. The chilling incident occurred after Stone lost a face-off to center Luke Glendening to the left of Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek, who didn’t see Miller go down.
“No I didn’t see what happened down there. I think maybe high stick,” Mrazek said. “I didn’t know what happened.”
As Miller moved into the left circle, Stone lost his balance, falling forward and his right leg kicked back into Miller’s face. Instantly, Miller whirled around grabbing his face and falling to the ice. He quickly scrambled to his feet and made a dash to the bench and down the tunnel underneath the stands to the Red Wings’ dressing room.
The 31-year-old Miller holds the Wings’ longest current streak for consecutive games played at 158 games. A broken bone in his hand forced him to miss the final four games of the 2013 lockout-shortened regular season and Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals against Chicago.
Miller did not return to Tuesday’s game, creating a void in the Wings’ forward lines and on the penalty kill, where he has been an invaluable contributor all season.
Captain Henrik Zetterberg said it wasn’t the play of the fourth line, nor the PK, that led to the Wings’ 2-1 shootout loss the Senators, who now trail Detroit by five points in the Atlantic Division standings.
“Obviously one guy short,” Zetterberg said of losing Miller. “He plays a lot on the PK, but the PK did good. You’ve got to make some matches a little more in your lineup or in the lines, but I think we handled that pretty good. Obviously, Pav and Sheahan weren’t here tonight, not Cole either.
“We have a practice day tomorrow. We got to work on the things that got to get better and we have a pretty big game here Thursday.”
That’s when the Wings will host Boston at Joe Louis Arena. After beating the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, the Bruins have 91 points and are two-points back of the Wings for third place in the division.
The Wings’ loss can partly be pinned on the inefficient power play and another slow start. Detroit was out-shot 34-17, and the power play was held without a single shot in three chances.
“They shot the puck a lot and they played really tight in front of their goalie,” Zetterberg said. “I think it was tough for us to get shots through. But we didn’t spend a lot of time in their end either. They spent basically the whole game in our end and it’s tough to get shots on net when that happens.”
The Wings began Tuesday’s game down three regular forwards. Datsyuk (lower body) and Sheahan (upper body) were late scratches, and Cole missed his fourth straight with an upper-body injury. All three are day to day.
Forwards Stephen Weiss and Daniel Cleary were added to the lineup. Each veteran skated 11-plus minutes while picking up roughing minor penalties against Senators defenseman Marc Methot, Cleary in the second, Weiss in the third.
Detroit’s lone goal in regulation was scored by Gustav Nyquist. His goal at 5:43 of the second period was set up by Justin Abdelkader’s pretty drop pass just inside the blue line. Nyquist’s rising shot beat Sens goalie Andrew Hammond high on the blocker side.
The Senators got the equalizer late in the third period on Clarke MacAthur’s goal, and Stone scored the deciding goal in the fifth round of the skills competition.
“We turned the puck over too much but they were quicker and faster and better,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We played three lines from the start of the game. They played four lines, just because we lost people. We lost Helm for a while. So I think that had a lot to do with it. But I don’t think we lacked any intensity at all. I thought we had great intensity on the bench. Guys were dialed in and trying to do what they could. But I didn’t think it was smooth or pretty to watch or any of that stuff.”
Babcock did not have a health update on Miller following the game, though he seemed confident that the veteran forward would be available for Thursday.
“Millsie looks like he’s going to have a big-time scare but he’ll be back,” Babcock said. “Obviously we just need some more hands on deck.”