DETROIT – The Red Wings did just fine without Nicklas Lidstrom in Game 4. Now they don’t want to push their luck.
Detroit routed the Chicago Blackhawks 6-1 Sunday and took a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference final. It was the only playoff game Lidstrom has missed in his career.
Rookie Jonathan Ericsson filled in for the six-time Norris Trophy-winning defenceman, and the defending champions didn’t miss a beat. Still, as well as Ericsson played, Detroit hopes it won’t have to replace Lidstrom again in Game 5 on Wednesday night with a chance to reach the Stanley Cup final.
“It’s way easier to replace quality players in the short term than it is in the long term because everyone can lift their level for a period of time,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said Tuesday. “But, how are you going to play like Nick every night? I haven’t seen anybody play like Nick every night, except Nick.”
Babcock said Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk were feeling better, but the team planned to wait until both got a chance to skate before the game to decide whether they will play.
Lidstrom missed Game 4 with an undisclosed injury. Datsyuk, an MVP finalist, has been out the past two games with an injured foot.
Babcock cut off a question about resting the players with a 3-1 series lead.
“If they’re ready, they’re playing,” Babcock insisted.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said his team would wait until game day to determine if No. 1 goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin and leading scorer Martin Havlat will be on the ice to help avoid elimination.
Havlat returned to the lineup Sunday, two days after a jarring hit from Detroit Niklas Kronwall, but was limited to fewer than eight minutes because he was checked hard by Brad Stuart.
Khabibulin has been out since playing the first two periods of Game 3 because of a lower body injury. He was replaced by Cristobal Huet, who allowed five of Detroit six goals in Game 5.
“We’ve found ways to play great without some of our best players all year,” Chicago star Jonathan Toews said. “We’ve missed guys like Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp and we found ways to win without those guys. We have to do the same thing (Wednesday) night. There is no excuse.”
If the Blackhawks did make excuses, the banged-up Red Wings wouldn’t want to hear them.
Detroit has played in this series without two of its best players and four-time Cup-winning forward Kris Draper because of injuries.
Brian Rafalski missed six games earlier in the playoffs, Tomas Kopecky has been sidelined since the second round and Andreas Lilja has been out the entire post-season because of various ailments.
When the Red Wings found out they would be without Lidstrom and Datsyuk in Game 4, they didn’t flinch.
“I don’t think there was any doubt we would win without those two,” Rafalski said.
Ericsson replaced Lidstrom, pairing him with Rafalski, and was solid in place of a player with a franchise-record 228 games of post-season experience.
“I wouldn’t say I took his spot,” Ericsson said. “Everybody is just trying to fill in with Nick, Pavel and Drapes out.”
Valtteri Filppula has four points in the past two games, filling in for Datsyuk.
“Even though they might be missing some of their top players, they have that depth and have that experience,” Toews said. “We definitely can’t expect an easy game.
“They are going to be determined to close it out. But we’re not going anywhere. We’re positive and optimistic about our situation, although a lot of people may not be.”