The Detroit Red Wings faceoff against the Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday night, but they’ll do so without the services of off-season acquisition Mike Green.
Green, 30, was injured this past Friday against Calgary when Flames winger Josh Jooris crunched the Red Wings blueliner with a solid jolt behind the Detroit net. Green finished his shift, but as soon as he left the ice, he headed to the dressing room and did not return. Green didn’t play Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks and Monday the Red Wings confirmed the defenseman would be out for up to three weeks.
In the off-season, the Red Wings inked Green to a three-year, $18-million deal, which made him the highest paid defenseman on the roster. Without Green, Detroit is missing their most offensively gifted defenseman and have lost an entire pairing thanks to a subsequent injury to Kyle Quincey, Green's primary defense partner this season, later in Friday’s game.
Detroit GM Ken Holland has not gotten into specifics about Green’s injury, but it has been reported the injury may be Green’s right shoulder. News that the blueliner could miss three weeks — up to another 10 games — is about as bad as things could have gotten for Detroit.
Green had the third-highest average ice time of any blueliner through seven games this season and was able to lighten the load put on top-pairing blueliner Niklas Kronwall, who is entering his 11th season with Detroit. Without Green, though, the onus has been put back on Kronwall to be the team’s clear-cut No. 1 defenseman and take all the big minutes. It was evident in Saturday’s contest against Vancouver that Detroit coach Jeff Blashill’s plan is to ride Kronwall hard during Green’s absence.
Leading into Saturday’s game, Kronwall’s season-high ice time was 24:35, which came the evening Green went down injured. Before Friday, there had been games in which Kronwall played less than 20 minutes and even had one sub-19-minute contest to start the year. Saturday, however, Blashill trotted Kronwall out for more than 27 minutes.
The issue for Detroit is their current lack of defensive depth, which is why the Green injury is so impactful. After Kronwall and Green, the Red Wings’ top option is Danny DeKeyser, who himself returned from injury just four games ago and looked Saturday as if he was still getting his legs. Quincey was a solid fourth option, but he’ll be out at least a week as per concussion protocol following a hit from Flames rookie Sam Bennett.
Detroit is now relying on a blueline that is utilizing Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson as the top pairing, DeKeyser and Alexey Marchenko as the second unit and the seldom-used duo of Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl to round out the D-corps. That’s not ideal for a Red Wings team that has struggled early on. And the longer Green remains on the sidelines, the more important it may become for Blashill to mix his third-pairing into games. If they can’t handle the increased minutes, Blashill and GM Ken Holland may have to dig deeper into AHL Grand Rapids to find a fill-in for Green.