Depth is source of strength for Detroit

Indeed, the benefit of having so many capable defensemen could not have been better illustrated by the Detroit Red Wings on Monday before and after practice on the eve of Game 6 in their second-round series with the Ducks.

Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski had his first full practice, but standout rookie defenseman Jonathan Ericsson of Sweden didn’t take part because of an injured right foot, having taken a shot off it in the first period of Sunday’s Game 5 win.

“Well, it’s the playoffs -- every game is important,” said Rafalski, who also skated for 25 minutes Sunday. “There’s no unimportant playoff games. Obviously, if the coaches and myself feel I can contribute in any way, then there’s a good chance I’ll play.”

His return would speak to the Red Wings’ remarkable depth, not just on the blue line, either. Wave after wave has pounded the Ducks, almost eroding them like a fragile shoreline.

The defending Stanley Cup champions have the Ducks on the verge of elimination, leading the series 3-2.


After practice, Red Wings Coach Mike Babcock was talking about not being able to keep all the assets on hand -- for example, losing defenseman Kyle Quincey on waivers in October to the Kings.

The Red Wings could also afford to let the then-struggling Ericsson refine his game earlier this season in the minors at Grand Rapids, Mich.

Now? He has been paired with Nicklas Lidstrom in this series.

“We could have put him on the team, for sure, but it was good for Johnny to go down and play, and good for us to work out our situation,” Babcock said.

Ericsson did not balk. In fact, he agreed with the demotion.

“I think it was the absolute best way for development and to become a better player,” he said.

“I wouldn’t want to change anything.”

Said Babcock: “When you’re a kid, you’re a kid.”

The kid nearly was not picked in the draft, going to the Red Wings as the last selection (No. 291) in 2002, almost like finding a lottery ticket in a swap meet.

“Nobody had seen me play,” Ericsson said. “I’m a very late bloomer. . . . I was just lucky they saw me the time they did. They were actually going to watch a player on the other team.”

That player, incidentally, was winger Andreas Sundin -- no relation to Mats, by the way -- who was drafted by the Red Wings in 2003.

As for his injury, Ericsson’s foot looked banged up but not hugely swollen as he spoke with reporters.

He said the equipment guys (“magic hands”) were working on modifying his skate boot.

“Nothing’s broken . . . this one just got a little bit worse during the game,” he said.


Duck watch

Forward Ryan Carter did not practice and was not on hand at what was an upbeat practice in which players started off by using their sticks in the opposite hand. Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle said Carter had “an appointment today.”

The Ducks were critical of their effort in Game 5, and rightly so. They know they now have to put Sunday in the rear-view mirror -- and fast.

“I’m probably not one of the better ones [at doing that] because I haven’t gone through it as much as some of these guys,” rookie Bobby Ryan said.

“I’m learning. The good thing about this group is there’s so many veteran guys to get info from, to get feedback from. I’ve always been a glass half-empty kind of guy. I’ve learned in the last year to switch it around quite a bit.”