Givani Smith made a favorable impression in less than three minutes of ice time.
He’s seemingly earned himself a spot in the lineup again as the Detroit Red Wings head on the road, delivering a tone-setting shift early in Tuesday’s game against the San Jose Sharks.
Smith fought Sharks defenseman Jacob Middleton at 2:30. At 18:16 of the first period, he was tossed by officials after a high hit on Middleton in the corner. That left the Wings shorthanded for five minutes and with a short bench the rest of the game, but coach Jeff Blashill didn’t mind.
Asked what he’d tell Smith, Blashill replied: “Keep going.”
“He was good. He fought, he hit. It wasn’t something where I was, oh gee, what are you doing? Not at all. I actually thought in the little bit he played he played with poise, he played strong, he battled hard. I was happy with those couple minutes of ice time.”
Smith logged just 2:32 minutes of ice time.
He has had a hard time proving he belongs in the lineup this season because his desire to provide energy has landed him in the penalty box. The five-minute major for boarding Middleton was warranted, and it lessened the damage that the Wings scored two shorthanded goals en route to a 6-2 victory.
Referee Wes McCauley reviewed the play to make certain the punishment was fitting.
“I’ve said there’s been some dangerous hits that needed to be called that haven’t been called,” Blashill said. “If they call that, fine — I just want those other ones called. Obviously the players want to be protected in those situations. I haven’t had a chance to review the hit but I do put a lot of faith in our refs, and certainly in Wes McCauley.”
Smith has two goals and two assists, and 26 penalty minutes in 24 games. Originally drafted in the second round in 2016, the Wings thought enough of Smith this past summer to protect him in the expansion draft. He’s a 6-foot-2, 215 pound energy guy, and while he had a short night Tuesday, it was more like what the Wings need to see from him.
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