Heading into their matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Detroit Red Wings were willing to try just about anything that could help their playoff chances, and they did just that.
Justin Abdelkader suffered a cut leg in Sunday’s loss to the Chicago Blackhawks and is expected to miss two weeks. Instead of dipping his hand into the Grand Rapids Griffins’ roster once again, head coach Mike Babcock decided to play defenseman Brendan Smith at left wing in Tuesday night’s game.
The decision seemed to pay off as the Wings were able to hold off the Leafs in a 3-2 victory.
Gustav Nyquist scored his second goal early in the third period and Daniel Alfredsson had the eventual game-winning goal with just 2:33 remaining. Smith logged 9:43 of playing time.
Claiming two points in regulation was important for the Wings’ quest to reach the playoffs, but that’s where the good news comes to an end.
Jonathan Ericsson underwent surgery on Wednesday after breaking the middle finger of his left hand in the second period. Despite initial reports claiming that he would be out for no longer than two weeks, the timetable for his return is now 4-6 weeks, right around the time that the regular season comes to an end.
It looks like the Red Wings’ playoff streak is simply running out of time.
Detroit is currently just one point out of the playoff picture but at this rate, they will run out of players before the regular season comes to an end. This is what the wild card standings look like:
1. Toronto – 80 points, 12 games remaining
2. Columbus Blue Jackets – 76 points, 14 games remaining
3. Washington Capitals – 76 points, 12 games remaining
4. Detroit – 75 points, 14 games remaining
At first glance the Wings are clearly not out of the playoff hunt, but how long can they really stay afloat?
It’s one thing to generate offense with young players, but plugging inexperienced players in on the defensive end will eventually lead to a collapse.
Whether or not the Red Wings can weather that storm remains to be seen, the odds are surely stacked against them.
Adam Almquist has been recalled to Detroit in an effort to replace Ericsson. The 23-year old has tallied 45 points in 60 games this season for the Griffins. Almquist played in two games for the Wings earlier this season and scored his first NHL goal against the Dallas Stars on November 7.
At least the Wings have the NHL’s hottest goal scorer on their side. Since January 20, Nyquist has 14 goals in 20 games, good for roughly 26% of the team’s total. Gus has 19 goals on the season and his team is 12-1-2 in games that he finds the back of the net.
The offseason could come earlier than usual for Wings fans but one thing is for sure, the rest of the season is going to be a bumpy ride.