GROSSE POINTE WOODS, Mich. - For several young Red Wings, tonight's game could be their last chance to impress the coaching staff.
The team is in Hamilton, Ontario to play the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Coach Jeff Blashill plans to play most of the regular lineup in Saturday's final preseason game at home so the young players fighting for jobs will get their best opportunity tonight.
"Through the week here, obviously in Chicago was one opportunity that we weren't good enough, a lot of the young guys weren't good enough," Blashill said after the morning skate at University Liggett's McCann Arena. "I thought against Pittsburgh they played better so these kids have a chance here tonight to show us what they've got."
Veteran defenseman Niklas Kronwall is still practicing and working to get to the point where he can play with some knee pain.
"He's getting to practice a little bit today but there's definitely a chance he may not start the season ready," Blashill said.
Because of the uncertainty with Kronwall, Blashill said they may keep eight defensemen.
In the mix for that spot are three players who would have to clear waivers if they are sent down - Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet and Nick Jensen.
Blashill said Robbie Russo, Brian Lashoff and Dan Renouf are also under consideration.
For the most part, Blashill said he has the roster mostly set in his mind.
"There's probably still some spots within who's going to be on it, where they're going to play and there's probably maybe a spot or two where we've got to make a final decision on it," Blashill said. "If you've got two more games to watch, let's watch two more games."
RENOUF IMPRESSES: The Wings signed Renouf as an undrafted free agent last March out of the University of Maine.
Renouf is 6-foot-2, 205 pounds. He played in six games with the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins at the end of last season, recording one assist.
Renouf suffered an upper-body injury in Wednesday night's game in Pittsburgh that will keep him out a week so Blashill said he would start in Grand Rapids.
"He's somebody who has put his name out there to say I should be a guy who should be a call-up guy, I should be a guy who looks like he can play in the NHL," Blashill said. "I'm not trying to rush him. It might be all year where he doesn't get it, it might be two years, I don't know. But he made a good impression in camp because he skates well, he's smart, he's rangy with his stick and he's got pretty good poise. I thought in the Chicago game, him and DK (Danny DeKeyser) were our two best defensemen because he wasn't afraid of the moment at all and that showed me lots. He showed some toughness. Now that's a real small sample size so let's keep watching and see."
MILLER TIME: Drew Miller, Luke Glendening and Steve Ott are the three veteran forwards playing in Hamilton tonight and appear to have established themselves as a line.
"We got good chemistry," Miller said. "I think it started at camp. We knew we were getting put together. Me and Glennie are familiar with each other. Otter has played in the league a long time and kind of jumped in and knows the role he's supposed to play with us, made it pretty simple for him to transition into that."
Ott is ranked eighth in preseason scoring with two goals and three assists in three games.
Glendening has two goals and two assists and Miller has one goal and two assists.
"Preseason is different but the success we've had we want to transition it to the regular season," Miller said. "That's something in the past that we haven't put up the points that we expect out of ourselves. The team needs a little bit more secondary scoring from the third and fourth lines. That's something we definitely want to continue doing. I think it's just a mindset, knowing we can be strong defensively, play our role and also put up some points as well."
Miller has heard some of the pundits' predictions that the Wings' 25-year playoff run will end this season.
"I'm excited for the year to start and I know a lot of people don't have our team being one of the top teams in the league," Miller said. "But I think the guys in the locker room, we all believe in each other and we're going to surprise some critics out there this year."
LINEUP FOR TONIGHT: Here is the lineup for tonight's game in Hamilton, Ontario:
Steve Ott-Luke Glendening-Drew Miller
Tyler Bertuzzi-Matt Lorito-Martin Frk
Ben Street-Louis-Marc Aubry-Mitch Callahan
Evgeny Svechnikov-Kyle Criscuolo-Eric Tangradi
Brian Lashoff-Ryan Sproul
Joe Hicketts-Robbie Russo
Nathan Paetsch-Nick Jensen
Goaltenders: Jimmy Howard (starting), Jared Coreau