Injury-riddled Red Wings helped by Calder Cup champions | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaInjury-riddled Red Wings helped by Calder Cup champions

Posted: Saturday, March 29, 2014 | 01:51 PM

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Gustav Nyquist of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on March 4, 2014 in Newark, New Jersey. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) Gustav Nyquist of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on March 4, 2014 in Newark, New Jersey. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock rightly has received plenty of applause for keeping his team in the playoff race despite the number of injuries to key players. But the kids who won a Calder Cup in Grand Rapids last year deserve some credit too, writes Tim Wharnsby.

The astounding numbers tell part of the overwhelming injury story for the Detroit Red Wings this season.

The Red Wings will have lost 373 man-games to injury after their visit to Toronto to play the Maple Leafs on Saturday evening. That's a team record. The previous high was 346 back in 2003-04.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have lost more players to injury this season at 463, but they haven't lost the quantity at the same time of the season, nor the quality Detroit has missed from its lineup.

While Sidney Crosby and, until recently, Evgeni Malkin have remained healthy in 2013-14, the Red Wings currently are without their two best players in Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, and they have been without these two stars for a long time. Datsyuk will miss his 35th game on Saturday. Zetterberg will be absent from his 29th.

Stephen Weiss was supposed to give the Red Wings some support as a second-line centre, but a sports hernia has kept him on the sidelines for what will be his 48th game on Saturday. Jonathan Ericsson, who partners with Nicklas Kronwall on Detroit's top defence, will miss his 26th.

Darren Helm (40), Johan Franzen (27), Jonas Gustavsson (21), Danny DeKeyser (16), Jimmy Howard (13), Daniel Alfredsson (12) and Joakim Andersson (12) have all spent significant time out of the Red Wings lineup because of various ailments.

To fill the holes left by injury, the Red Wings have been forced to use 37 different players. Eight have made their NHL debuts for the Red Wings this season.

Only Detroit defenceman Kyle Quincey and speedy forward Drew Miller have played in each of the Red Wings 73 games to date.

Griffins to the rescue

Detroit head coach Mike Babcock has received his share of credit for keeping the Red Wings in the playoff picture and the possibility that they can extend their postseason streak to an incredible 23 seasons. Babcock deserves the credit.

But another factor has been how well the call-ups from the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins have played. This has been the result of good scouting, strong player development and the benefit these kids received from their 24-game run to the Calder Cup championship last spring.

"It's interesting," Babcock said. "Someone was saying that [the Tampa Bay Lightning's farm club in Norfolk] won [in 2011-12] and [the Lightning's AHL club in Syracuse] went to the final last year and that really helped [Tampa Bay].

"Does it help you because you've got good players so you're good enough to win down there and then you can bring them up or does the experience help? I don't know the answer for sure.

"I do know I like being around winning. I think winning is real important. Guys learn to do things right, but good players win and bad players don't win. You can win the Calder Cup with veterans or you can win it like we did or like Tampa did with kids. If you win it with kids, they're obviously going in the right direction and eventually going to help out your NHL team. We have six of those kids who are forwards in the lineup tonight and they're important for us."

A total of 14 players from the Griffins' Calder Cup title team have suited up for the Red Wings this season.

  • Adam Almquist
  • Joakim Andersson
  • Mitch Callahan
  • Danny DeKeyser
  • Landon Ferraro
  • Luke Glendening
  • Tomas Jurco
  • Brian Lashoff
  • Petr Mrazek
  • Jan Mursak
  • Gustav Nyquist
  • Teemu Pulkkinen
  • Riley Sheahan
  • Tomas Tatar

Glendening, Jurco, Nyquist, Pulkkinen, Sheahan and Tatar are the forwards Babcock spoke about. DeKeyser, a defenceman, makes it seven who will play for Detroit in Toronto. He joined the Griffins in time for the Calder Cup final after he finished the season with the Red Wings.

Nyquist and Tatar have been the biggest contributors up front in Detroit from the Grand Rapids group this season, but Sheahan and Glendening also have been pleasant surprises. The 24-year-old Nyquist has a team-leading 25 goals in 48 outings. The 23-year-old Tatar has 18 goals in 64 games.

"It was a big confidence booster," said Tatar, who led the Griffins in playoff scoring last spring with a remarkable 16 goals and 21 points in 24 games. "After you win a Cup, you have a huge amount of confidence. We had a heck of a year, down there.

"You feel that you have nothing more to prove in the AHL when you win like we did. When you win you feel you're among the best at that level. You're ready to make the next step and everybody wants to get to that next level."

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