Detroit — They were separate incidents, although similar in nature, and both showed a positive development regarding this Red Wings team.
There is a bond, a tightness, a willingness to stick up for a teammate.
And in the world of professional hockey, that is something important.
The first incident occurred against the Florida Panthers on April 1. In that game, Panthers defenseman Riley Stillman leveled Dylan Larkin with a hard hit, there was no call, and Stillman escaped unscathed the final few remaining minutes of the second period.
But beginning the third, Givani Smith sought out Stillman and challenged Stillman to a fight, drawing universal praise among the Wings afterward.
“It’s a testament to who Smitty is,” forward Luke Glendening said. “To be step in there, after he (Smith) had already fought (earlier in the game), and stand up for Larks, stand up for a teammate, it’s a testament to who Smitty is.
Said coach Jeff Blashill: “That’s stepping up big time, sticking up for your teammate.”
Then Tuesday, against Nashville, there was another situation of an opponent taking advantage of a Red Wing.
Predators defenseman Jeremy Davies leveled Valtteri Filppula with a hard check, somewhat after the play had ended.
Filppula staggered into the hallway leading to the locker room, needing trainers’ momentary assistance.
It didn’t take long for Glendening to seek out Davies, and wrestle the young defenseman to the ice.
Many Wings players have talked this season about the close-knit group this has become. In both of the recent on-ice acts, it was apparent teammates don’t like the idea of opponents taking liberties with any Wings’ players.
“It’s very important,” Larkin said. “That’s what a team is all about. We have each other’s backs in here, we battle and work for each other and it was great to see (Glendening, Smith stepping up).”
Blashill was glad to see the actions by Smith and Glendening, but not surprised, having mentioned often the closeness of the team.
“IIt’s important as a hockey team to care about each other, to want to play for each other and want to go to battle for each other and want to stick up for each other,” Blashill said.
Part of the business
In the world of professional sports, especially in recent years, players fully understand being traded is part of the business.
At any given moment, you might need to uproot yourself and the family, changing cities totally unexpectedly.
Sam Gagner has been through it as the son of a professional hockey player (Dave Gagner) and now as an NHL player himself.
“It’s on your mind if you have a family, you’re just kind of wondering what’s going to happen,” Gagner said. “But you learn to handle it as years go by.
“When I was younger, I never really expected to be traded at certain deadlines. But you have friends that get traded, and that’s part of the business and it’s never fun.
“The position we’re in (the Red Wings are near the bottom of the standings), it’s something you think about as trade deadline approaches but you do your best to just go out and play and control what you can control.”
Blashill said after Thursday’s morning skate that Gagner and goaltender Jonathan Bernier would be available to play Thursday, but forwards Robby Fabbri, Bobby Ryan and defenseman Patrik Nemeth remain injured and unavailable.
… Adam Erne entered Thursday’s game with nine goals, behind only Fabbri and Anthony Mantha (10 goals each) for the team lead.
Erne has credited being on a line with Glendening and Darren Helm, two other grinders, as a key reason for his success lately.
Glendening is happy for his linemate’s offensive explosion.
“Adam has always been a guy who works extremely hard,” Glendening said. “He’s physical, skates super-well. But it’s great to see him putting the puck in the net. You can see his confidence on the ice. He’s hanging onto the puck and making plays.
“Just because he’s scoring goals doesn’t take away (from Erne’s other strengths as a checker, grinder). It’s an added dimension when he’s putting the puck into the net like he is this year.”