Defenseman Ben Chiarot latest injured Red Wing, taking toll on team’s depth

Detroit News

Detroit — One thing the Red Wings don’t need the remainder of this season is injuries, but they’re beginning to deal with multiple ones as the schedule winds down.

Already without forward Robby Fabbri (lower-body), coach Derek Lalonde said defenseman Ben Chiarot is considered week-to-week as he deals with an upper-body injury.

“Ben has been dealing with something,” Lalonde said. “We don’t expect him Saturday (against Colorado). He might be in that week-to-week range. We’ll see him before the season is out, but he’s been dealing with something for a little bit now and he won’t be available Saturday.”

The injuries are compounded by the fact the Wings dealt four regulars (forwards Tyler Bertuzzi, Jakub Vrana and Oskar Sundstrom, and defenseman Filip Hronek) at the trade deadline, weakening the Wings’ depth.

The Wings have enough bodies on defense to overcome Chiarot’s absence, for now. But they’ll definitely miss the physical nature and experience Chiarot has brought to the lineup.

“We don’t (have that physicality); we’re not built like that,” Lalonde said. “A lot of times, a heavy hit, separation of puck in the defensive zone, Ben is that guy. Standing up for his teammates, things like that Ben obviously has the respect around the league.

“We’ll certainly miss the big body.”

The plus-minus rating in hockey has been devalued over the years with other sorts of defensive analytics taking on greater importance or popularity. Chiarot currently is a team-worse minus-27, but Lalonde doesn’t put ample stock into the statistic.

“There’s a reason that’s (plus-minus) outdated,” Lalonde said. “There’s some truth to it. Bennie would be the first one to admit it’s found him in a few situations, but I still think it’s because of what we’ve asked of him. We’re asking him to play his off-hand (not natural side) here, its (facing other teams) top lines.

“There’s more of the season left for Bennie, but we’re very happy with what he has brought us. Him being part of that core behind closed doors, he’s been a very valuable addition to our team.”

Look out

Filip Zadina got crunched during a drill in practice and was shaken up heading back to the bench. Zadina sat out the rest of the practice and his availability for Saturday is undetermined.

Lalonde said Zadina was “fine” but the coaching staff didn’t get a full report.

“He took a reverse hit there in practice and looked a little woozy,” Lalonde said. “I haven’t heard either way. We’ll know more (Friday). It’s the luxury of having a day between our games before Saturday.”

As for Fabbri, who was hurt March 8 against Chicago, Lalonde said Fabbri skated on his own Thursday but a return isn’t imminent. Fabbri appeared to tweak his knee in that game during a collision along the boards, which isn’t great news for a player who has had three ACL surgeries on his knees in his career including one late last season.

“(Fabbri is) closer, but again, the immediate reaction was being really, really conservative and cautious with it and we’ll probably keep that approach,” Lalonde said.

Something to play for

The Wings are drifting further away from any realistic playoff contention, but veteran defenseman Olli Maatta doesn’t expect any sort of letdown from the team.

As an example, splitting two games against league-leading Boston last weekend, then playing Nashville tough until the final seconds, are good example of a team still playing hard and scrapping toward a playoff spot.

“We’ve done a pretty good job of that,” Maatta said. “There’s enough experience in here, it’s still the NHL and you want to play and you want prove how good a team you are, and individually as well. But as a team, and we have, what, four weeks until the end of the season, so make the best out of it. There are definitely some things we can build on and build your own game.

“Everything carries into next season, and it matters. There’s also a pride thing. You want to go out there and be competitive every game.”

March Madness

So, who is Lalonde’s pick to capture March Madness?

“I’ve always picked Syracuse, being a fan growing up in upstate New York and they’ve killed me because I had Syracuse going to the finals,” Lalonde said. “But that hasn’t been the case (for years) and this year they bailed me out (not making the tournament).”

Lalonde’s family has a no-money but huge, big-time pride tournament within their ranks that Lalonde, also hasn’t fared very well.

“I’m awful at basketball,” Lalonde said. “We’ve had (the family pool) forever and I usually go with the top seeds. My daughter goes with jersey colors and has always finished ahead of me.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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