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Wings will platoon sixth defensive spot

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Defensemen Kyle Quincey and Jakub Kindl will alternate the final five regular-season games. (Photos by Getty Images)
DETROIT – Beginning with tonight’s game against Nashville, coach Mike Babcock plans to fill the sixth defenseman role by alternating Kyle Quincey and Jakub Kindl in and out of the lineup for at least the last week of the season.

“We had a meeting and he said that we’re going to rotate through and that’s about it,” said Kindl, who is scheduled to play against the Predators. “Not sure what the plan is for the playoffs, but whenever I have the opportunity I need to be ready and show-up, enjoy myself and play.”

Since Mike Commodore suffered a knee injury in preseason, the Wings tried to batten down the sixth spot. And while the coaches couldn’t settle on a frontrunner, general manager Ken Holland went out and reacquired a young defenseman in Quincey that they were sorry to lose in the first place.

Holland pulled off a three-way deal to bring Quincey back to Detroit, where he was a fourth-round draft pick in 2003. Friday’s game will be the first time he sits out as a healthy scratch since his return to the Wings.

“I'm not surprised. We have seven great D,” Quincey said. “Obviously you want to be playing, you're a hockey player. I would like to be playing.”

For the first time in nearly a month, the defensive unit is finally healthy again with the return of Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle), Jonathan Ericsson (wrist) and Kindl (oblique) rejoining the roster in the last week.

With all six or seven defensemen healthy again, it gives the Wings contiguity in their own end of the ice. Break-outs are smoother and fewer neutral zone turnovers occur, limiting odd-man rushes by the opposition, especially under Lidstrom’s guidance.

“We missed him dearly, just look at how we were playing when he wasn’t in, and as soon as he gets back in he’s a difference-maker every night,” defenseman Ian White said. “It speaks volumes for him, for sure. Every team probably has a key component, but none as important as Nick.”

Kindl and Quincey offer the defense two different playing styles. Kindl prefers to play it safe, while Quincey will often gamble more by jumping into the offensive rush.

“The last couple of games I've been getting a lot of shots on net and trying to help our offense,” said Quincey, who had 13 shots combined in home wins against Carolina and Columbus in the last week. “It hasn't been going in, but it will.”

But offensive shortcomings can be magnified, especially when they lead to defensive breakdowns, Babcock said.

“Our team hasn't been great,” he said. “We haven't given up a bunch during this stretch, 26 shots a game, but we're not scoring goals. Anytime you make a mistake when you don't score goals, you look like you made a mistake. So I wouldn't spend a whole lot of time worrying about this. We're going to have everybody ready to go come playoff time.”

For Quincey, rejoining the Wings hasn’t been as seamless as he had hoped it would be. He has two goals, and an assist with a minus-1 rating in 15 games. Still, he believes there’s enough time in these last five games to get up to speed.

“It was a big transition coming back,” he said. “You start at a different position and you come back in a different one. The systems are different. It does take time to get used to them. One thing is to learn them and the other thing is to be comfortable and playing at full-speed against good teams.”

Meanwhile, Kindl knows the system and his recent play as meant an increase in ice-time, including one game where he logged more time than the team captain.

“I’ve played more minutes and that’s how you build the confidence, start playing more and more,” he said. “And lately I’ve been playing like 18-minutes a game, it’s the highest ice-time I’ve ever had.

“It’s funny, after the games we get those (statistical) sheets and it was the first time – and probably the last time – that I played more than Nick by two-seconds. That was kind of the highlight of my career … playing more than him.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Roose_Bill

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