For Red Wings’ brothers Gemel, Givani Smith, playing on same team ‘the coolest thing’

Detroit News

St. Paul, Minn. —  Gemel Smith is four years older than his brother Givani, so the chances for them to be on the same team together growing up in Toronto were minimal.

But that all changed Monday when they skated for the Red Wings, playing on the same line, no less.

Gemel, 27, and Givani, 23, were on a line with Sam Gagner, fulfilling a lifetime thrill while playing in the NHL.

“It’s a good experience,” Gemel Smith said after Monday’s morning skate. “I’m excited. Obviously, it’s the coolest thing, I just want to get out there and play.”

Hopefully their parents, back in Toronto, had a chance to see the Smith brothers play.

Gemel was unsure if either of them were going to contact their mother and father.

“Now that you guys said it, I’ll probably tell them, ‘Hey, just to let you guys know, we’re playing’,” Gemel said. “We’ll see what happens.

“We don’t really think too far ahead like that. I didn’t call them and I’m pretty sure he’s (Givani) not (going to call). If they catch it, they catch it kind of thing.”

The Wings claimed Gemel Smith off waivers from Tampa Bay on Jan. 19. He’s only played one game thus far with the Wings, earning an assist. Givani Smith wasn’t in the lineup for that game.

Givani Smith has four goals and two assists, with a team-leading 89 penalty minutes.

Coach Jeff Blashill was happy for the brothers.

“They never played together, (so) it’s really cool,” Blashill said. “Ultimately we’re in the winning business, and we’re trying to put the best lineup (out there) and those types of things aren’t the reasons why we make those decisions. But I’m also human. I have a brother and I never got to play with him, and it would have been really cool to do that.

“It’ll be an awesome experience for those two.”

Both Smith brothers play with an edge, which can help the Wings.

“Both of them are physical, both of them can match other teams’ toughness and intensity,” Blashill said. “They’re different players. Gemel is a little more of what I would call an energy player, he’s on the puck a little bit, skates a little quicker than Givani.

“Givani is that big body. I haven’t seen a lot of them together (in practice), so if we decide to play them together, it’ll be a little bit of us watching and seeing how they do and making decisions if we want to stay with it.”

Gemel agreed he’s the more offensively-skilled player.

“More like a playmaking player and he’s a big body who creates space,” Gemel said. “It will go well. I’ve got speed, I play with tenacity. He’s a big body, likes to hit and get in there, so we’ll complement each other pretty good.”

The Smith brothers became the first pair of brothers to play in a Wings game together since Frank and Peter Mahovlich on March 30, 1969, at Chicago.

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Guelph connection

The line of Tyler Bertuzzi, Pius Suter and Robby Fabbri played two years together (2013-15) for the Guelph Storm in the Ontario Hockey League.

They occasionally skated as a line together, but infrequently.

But since Blashill put them together last month, it’s been a revelation, as the trio has become a consistent offensive threat.

“It’s been good so far,” Fabbri said. “We’re having fun, rekindling what we had many years ago. Chemistry off the ice translates to chemistry on the ice. We complement each other with how we play. Once you play a few games together you get to know how guys are going to play and what plays they’re going to make.

“There’s still some areas we can be better at, but it’s been good so far.”

More: Red Wings’ ‘Guelph Line’ offering balance for coach Jeff Blashill

Blashill wanted to create more offensive balance, by moving Bertuzzi to Suter’s line.

Vladislav Namestnikov, and now Filip Zadina, have skated with Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond on the top line, with that trio also supplying goals.

“(Suter’s) line has moved the puck so well,” Larkin said. “Suits plays a simple game and Fabbs plays hard, and all three of them have skill. Bert has been making incredible plays all year.

“It’s great for our team. It adds a another dynamic, a dimension to our team that we need, and it helps all four lines because it makes it harder to match up against.”

Twitter: @tkulfan

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