Defenseman Robert Hagg has to be among the NHL leaders in frustration this season. When he plays for the Detroit Red Wings tonight, it will only be his 14th game of the season and his first in more than two months.
Multiple Injuries and Detroit’s defensive depth has limited his playing time.
“It’s been a long year. I can’t deny that,” Hagg said. “But I’m healthy and looking forward for the last part of the season. That’s all I can focus on.”
Detroit coach Derek Lalonde said after the Red Wings’ morning skate that Hagg will take Jordan Oesterle’s spot and Filip Zadina is going in for the slumping Dominik Kubalik. Hagg hasn’t played since Dec. 8 and Zadina hasn’t been in the Detroit lineup since Nov. 5.
Lalonde said the Kubalik call was a “really tough decision.”
“Kuby probably doesn’t warrant to come out,” Lalonde said. “I know someone the other day asked the question about where his game was at. He was still involved with 4-5 chances against. He literally beat the goalie five hole on a breakaway that he made an unbelievable kick save from behind him. But 13 forwards, we’ll take advantage of it. I think you might see some guys taken out because we gotta get Zadina playing. He worked unbelievably hard through a very tough injury. I’m very excited about getting him an opportunity.”
No PP Time
Zadina won’t take Kubalik’s spot on the power play, or at least that’s the plan for now. Zadina didn’t score in his first nine games for the Red Wings this season, but did score once for the Grand Rapids Griffins in his two-game conditioning stint.
“We’re still ironing out what it’s going to look like,” Lalonde said. “We just want to get his five-on-five game going. Obviously, he’s got the skill-set to help us on the power play but I don’t expect it tonight.”
Lalonde’s message to Zadina is clear.
“(Be) assertive with his game – skating, attacking wide and hard,” Lalonde said. “Shoot first mentality. Less thinking and more skating, because he can skate.”
Lalonde likes the match-up of the bigger-bodied Hagg (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) against the Flames. He has some bite to his playing style.
“It’s the first time we’ve been this healthy all year,” Lalonde said. “We need to keep running some of these bodies in. A little bit the matchup, too. Calgary is a deep, heavy team. Hagg has a little more physical part to his game.”
Lalonde understands Hagg’s frustration. “He gets a game, gets injured in one game, a long rehab,” Lalonde said. “It’s tough to get rhythm. We got to get these guys some looks.”
Hagg’s plan for tonight is not to try to do too much.
“Just go out there and play your game, don’t overthink, don’t complicate it,” Hagg said. “Just go out there and play simple.”