Wings setting M.A.S.H. records as they try to continue playoff streak
DETROIT — The Red Wings have already set a dubious record and are on the verge of setting another Tuesday night in Columbus — yet they’re still in the playoff hunt.
When the Wings lost in overtime to the Minnesota Wild Sunday night, they reached 351 man-games lost to injury, the most since 1985-86, when they first started keeping that statistic.
The Wings passed the 346 man-games they lost in 2003-04.
On Monday, the Wings recalled forward Mitch Callahan from the Grand Rapids Griffins and assigned forward Landon Ferraro to the Griffins.
The Wings have already dressed 36 different players this season, tying the most they have used since 1993-94.
If Callahan dresses for Tuesday’s game against the Blue Jackets, he’ll be the 37th.
Callahan, 22, would also be the eighth rookie to make his NHL debut this season, joining Tomas Jurco, Ferraro, Luke Glendening, Adam Almquist, Teemu Pulkkinen, Alexey Marchenko and Xavier Ouellet.
All of this is because of the horrific rash of injuries that the Wings have suffered this season.
Here are the players who have missed time this season: captain Henrik Zetterberg (back surgery); Pavel Datsyuk (knee); Stephen Weiss (sports hernia); Jonathan Ericsson (current-broken finger; previously ribs); Mikael Samuelsson (current-shoulder; previously groin); Joakim Andersson (broken foot); Daniel Cleary (knee); Justin Abdelkader (lacerated leg); Tomas Jurco (broken rib); Darren Helm (groin, back, shoulder, concussion); Johan Franzen (concussion); Jonas Gustavsson (groin); Danny DeKeyser (shoulder); Jimmy Howard (groin); Daniel Alfredsson (back, groin); Patrick Eaves (concussion); Todd Bertuzzi (lower-body, flu); Jakub Kindl (knee); Brendan Smith (shoulder); Cory Emmerton; Jordin Tootoo; Gustav Nyquist: and Niklas Kronwall.
The only two players who have played in all 71 games for the Wings are Drew Miller and Kyle Quincey.
The silver lining in the injury cloud is that the young players have gotten valuable experience at the NHL level.
"All the guys that’s coming up, they’re hungry, they’re excited," Gustavsson said. "It gives our team an energy boost as well. Look at the young guys, they put out a lot of points, they work hard and kill penalties and all that. It’s good to know we have guys that can do that in this position."
Many of those young players who are fighting to keep the Red Wings’ 22-year playoff streak alive were a part of the team that won the Calder Cup with the Grand Rapids Griffins last season.
"Being in that gave us a lot of confidence going into this year," defenseman Brian Lashoff said. "A lot of those games were pressure games. We played over 20 playoff games. It’s prepared us for now because we’re in playoff hockey."
Because Gustav Nyquist still had an option left entering the season, he started the year in Grand Rapids.
Nyquist returned to the Wings Nov. 21. In the absence of top scorers Zetterberg and Datsyuk, he has turned up his offensive game.
Nyquist scored twice Sunday, giving him seven goals in his last five games and 18 since Jan. 20.
"I think confidence grows for every game that you’re up here, and right now, obviously, scoring a little bit it gives me more confidence with the puck," Nyquist said.
Coach Mike Babcock has seen Nyquist grow as the season has gone on.
"He’s getting good opportunity but the other thing he’s doing is shoot the puck, he’s got to continue to shoot the puck," Babcock said. "In the National League you score by shooting, not by passing. So he’s done a good job in that area, he has to continue to do that."
Howard said the Wings are now looking to Nyquist to fill that scoring role.
"He’s been doing great, he’s pretty much carrying the mail for us here," Howard said. "He’s hot, he’s been hot since January and we’re gonna continue to need him."
The Wings have climbed ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs into seventh place in the Eastern Conference although both teams have 80 points. The Wings have one more regulation or overtime win than the Leafs and they also have two games in hand.
With 11 games left, the Wings still have a lot of work to do to make the playoffs.
But considering what they’ve overcome to still be in the race, it’s pretty impressive.
"Yeah, I feel like if we’re going to make the playoffs and we believe we will, with this many injuries, to still be in playoff position and battle for the Cup is a big thing," Tomas Tatar said. "I’m really glad fans are with us and support us and they know how tough it is for us right now to be in battle without those players.
"If we make it it’s going to be huge."