Defenseman Brendan Smith, who’s been a not-so-subtle target of coach Mike Babcock’s for suspect play, returns to the lineup tonight after missing 16 days with a separated shoulder.
Babcock may dress seven defensemen and 11 forwards tonight, as Daniel Alfredsson’s groin is still tender.
Babcock has used tough love on Smith, who the coach likes but is still critical of Smith’s play without the puck. Smith is minus-7 this season.
It didn’t help Smith’s cause when, after being a healthy scratch in October following a minus-4 game, Smith told reporters that the minus-4 wasn’t due to any break down on his part.
But during his time recovering from the shoulder, Smith has kept his mouth shut and his ears open, soaking in advice from Niklas Kronwall, for one.
“I was focusing on some of the plays Kronwall would make and how he jumped up in the rush,” Smith said. “I like how Nik can have such a good gap at all times. He makes it very efficient for himself that way. When he has good gap, obviously, nobody is going to beat him.”