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Detroit Red Wings

Dearth of Center Depth Led To Red Wings Claiming Gemel Smith



Gemel Smith, Detroit Red Wings
Available cap and roster space plus the need for a bottom-six center led the Detroit Red Wings to claim Gemel Smith on waivers from Tampa Bay.

The Detroit Red Wings thinking of a sports truism as old as the NHL itself when they claiming center Gemel Smith on waivers from the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday.

No matter the sport, strength down the middle in considered vital to team success. And lately, the center position has taken a hit as far as the Red Wings are concerned.

When Carter Rowney (undisclosed) joined Mitchell Stephens (ankle) on the injured list, it was leaving the Wings without a true fourth-line center. The opportunity to pick up Smith gave the Wings a potential solution to this problem.

The cap and roster space that the Wings are in possession of made the chance to do so possible.

“I would say certainly it’s a benefit of both those things,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “You get the opportunity to have a look and also probably a little bit out of necessity. We’ve had a bit of, not pile up of injuries, but we’ve got a couple of guys in Rowney and Stephens who are out at the center position, so it gives a little more depth that way.

“Obviously we’ve been missing (Jakub) Vrana (shoulder surgery) all year. So it just gives you a little bit more depth and it does give you that opportunity to have a look and see if it’s a good fit for our organization.”

No Lose Proposition For Red Wings

It really is a no-lose proposition for Detroit. In 88 NHL games, Smith has scored 12 goals. He’s displayed flashes in his NHL stints with the Lightning, Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars. At 27, this might be his final chance to display his wares and show he has the goods to be an NHL regular.

“He’s got to be a good energy player,” Blashill said. “We’ll see where it all takes us. We live in a day by day world. I haven’t had an opportunity to practice with him yet, so let’s wait and see where it goes.”

Perhaps getting the chance playing alongside his younger brother Givani in the NHL will prove to be the inspiration to get Gemel over the hump and into a steady role in the show. And if not, the Wings can put him on waivers and move on to try something else.

Gemel Smith has been out all season with an abdominal injury but was poised to play his first game of the season for the Lightning when he was lost on waivers.

“We also wanted to put him through our own physical and physical screening,” Blashill said. “He had an abdominal injury, so we wanted to make sure … our sports science people have a screening process that every player goes through. They want to see where his strengths and weaknesses and balances and imbalances are so that we make sure we design a program that’s proper for him.

“[It’s] just to make sure our doctors take a look and get a clean bill of health from our status. I anticipate him being available tomorrow.”

Rowney Update

While Gemel Smith is getting his chance to play for Detroit, it’s uncertain when Rowney might again be fit enough for action. He hasn’t played since being injured Jan. 4 in a 6-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks.

“He’s still not skating,” Blashill said. “I don’t know what’s short and what’s long-term. I think he’s hoping to just get on the ice by himself tomorrow if that gives you an indication of where he’s at. So, he’s not in a spot where he’s ready to practice.

“I can’t give you a specific timeline until he starts skating and we see where he’s at.”