DETROIT — The Red Wings have always had skilled players. What they haven’t had is skilled players with size.
That appears to be changing.
With the plethora of injuries they’ve had, the Wings have had to rely on some of their kids from Grand Rapids to fill in.
One of those players is center Riley Sheahan, who is 6-foot-2, 212 pounds. Another is his line mate, Tomas Jurco, 6-foot-2, 193 pounds.
Sheahan, who just turned 22 last month, isn’t going to be playing 19-plus minutes like captain Henrik Zetterberg does but he made the most of his 12:47 Friday night.
Sheahan got his second career goal, which turned out to be the winner in a 4-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens Friday night at Joe Louis Arena.
"It was pretty cool," Sheahan said. "I have some family in the crowd and they’re big Habs fans so I get a little something to rub in their face now so it’ll be fun."
Sheahan delivered a rocket of a shot from the left circle that beat Canadiens goaltender Carey Price glove-side.
"I just saw the puck coming off the wall pretty hard and I know their D were sort of caught in their zone and I just took the lane that I had and I got some good wood on the shot and just put it in," Sheahan said.
In 11 games this season, Sheahan has two goals and four assists and is plus-2.
Sheahan’s play has earned him not only praise from coach Mike Babcock, but also more playing time.
"It was a good goal from Sheahan, Sheahan looks like a real good player," Babcock said. "I played him right down the stretch, the last minute there, I just thought he had played well tonight and earned the opportunity."
With every game, Sheahan is gaining confidence that he can play at the NHL level.
"The first few times I got called up I wasn’t really taking the opportunity and now I feel a lot more comfortable and confident," Sheahan said. "I’m just trying to make plays and use my size to my advantage and things like that. It’s nice he feels confident putting our line out there and I think we’re performing pretty well."
Veterans like Niklas Kronwall have noticed Sheahan getting more and more comfortable.
"He’s gaining confidence very shift he plays out there," Kronwall said. "He’s come to understand that he can play this game. He’s very heavy on the puck and he’s using his body every shift he’s out there. He’s been huge for us ever since he came up."
Sheahan said the veteran Wings have all been very welcoming of him and the other youngsters like Jurco and Luke Glendening, which has helped him get acclimated.
But nothing helps a player develop better than experience.
"I always kind of knew my skill set was there, I just could never really feel confident out there," Sheahan said. "I think I was sort of easing off and laying back and watching other guys do things. Now I’ve had the opportunity and I’ve grown a little more comfortable out there. I think that’s the biggest thing."
Eventually Pavel Datsyuk, Joakim Andersson and Stephen Weiss will be back, which will likely mean a trip back to Grand Rapids for Sheahan.
"I think I’ve just been going out every day and trying to work my hardest," Sheahan said. "My spot here isn’t solidified. I think I’m going to have to spend more time in Grand Rapids but I’m trying to make the most of my opportunity here.
"Babs always says take your piece of the cake so I think that’s what I’m trying to do."