Detroit — After the game goaltender Thomas Greiss had last weekend against Philadelphia, coach Jeff Blashill wanted to get Greiss back in net fairly soon.
Thursday was a good spot to do it, against a New York Rangers team Greiss has had success against in the past, and Greiss still sharp from having played.
It worked out perfectly. Greiss stopped 37 shots while earning the 3-2 shootout win, and possibly earning more work, as he appears to be trending upward and Alex Nedeljkovic is experiencing a downturn.
“After his last game he deserved another start, 100%,” coach Jeff Blashill said of Greiss after Thursday’s victory.
Greiss is the first to admit he’s had an “up-and-down” season, including not playing for a month because of COVID-19 protocol, combined with the emergence of Nedeljkovic, and the All-Star break.
But Greiss has kept sharp with extra work in practice.
“It’s always frustrating when you’re on the other side, but you can’t let it get to you and break you down,” Greiss said. “You just got to work through it and get better.”
Greiss has been through a variety of roles in the NHL. He’s been a regular starter, he’s alternated, and there have been times where he’s been the primary backup and not getting starts for a long stretches.
At this stage in his career, Greiss is comfortable doing any of those. But the fact Greiss does seem to play his best with a bit of a break between games does give Blashill the option to play both goalies regularly and keep both game-ready.
“He’s a goalie who’s ultimately better with more rest,” Blashill said. “When he gets run out there every other night it’s harder. His numbers say he’s better with more rest, but he is a guy who can handle these types of situations (not playing).
“He’s been around the league, he knows how to manage himself, and how to get himself prepared. He’s an even-keeled person, so there’s not lots of highs and lows. When he’s ready to go, he goes in.”
Nedeljkovic has only won two of his last seven starts and might be affected by the workload. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Blashill split the games between the two goalies temporarily.
“I’d like to have them both going at a high level. That gives us our best chance to be a real good team down the stretch, to get both guys going,” Blashill said.
Gemel Smith waived
The Wings Friday waived forward Gemel Smith.
Smith played three games, with one assist, and was a minus-2.
The transaction gives the Wings’ roster flexibility, given the expected return of forward Vladislav Namestnikov (lower-body), with forwards Jakub Vrana (shoulder) and Carter Rowney (lower body) expected back in the not-too-distant future.
“It gives us flexibility to send guys to the minors,” Blashill said. “Just because somebody goes on waivers, it doesn’t mean if he doesn’t get claimed, he doesn’t stay here. Gemel hasn’t had tons of opportunity. But if Carter Rowney and Vladdy is back, you’re looking at a pretty full roster, and I’m not sure he’s in the lineup on Wednesday.”
The Wings, because of the necessity to reschedule games postponed from December when COVID ravaged the NHL schedule, have been making up postponements this month.
But, after Thursday’s win, the Wings are now off until Wednesday when they host Colorado.
It’s a five-day break, which is uncommon during a typical NHL season, but given what the league has gone through this season, it’s just another curveball the Wings, and other teams, have to deal with.
“I can’t complain at all about our schedule,” Blashill said. “It’s not like we went three weeks without playing. That’s a really hard thing to do. I’m fine with where we’re at. After the Colorado game we get going back a little more normal.
“These five days are the weird part of the schedule, and hopefully we get enough practice and rest to be ready against a real good Colorado team.”