The Detroit Red Wings faced a daunting task this season: replace the defensive talents of Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart. While it will never be possible to replace Lidstrom on the team, the remaining players have been given more responsibility this season and they are starting to grow into their roles. The heir apparent to Lidstrom’s top spot on Detroit’s blue line is fellow Swede Niklas Kronwall, but Jonathan Ericsson is off to a fine start this season and making a name for himself as well.
The Red Wings are currently riding a season-high three-game winning streak. Ericsson scored the overtime game-winner Sunday to push the Wings past the Los Angeles Kings and keep the streak alive. With two goals and five points in nine games this season, the former last pick in the 2002 draft is on pace for his best offensive year yet. Add to that the fact that he continues to mature in his won zone and you can see why Red Wings scouts saw some potential in him over a decade ago.
This is Ericsson’s fourth season of full-time NHL duty and he is thriving on the Red Wings’ second defense pairing alongside Ian White. He does not see time on the power play but is a vital part of the penalty kill, an area of great improvement over the last two games. The Red Wings did not allow the Kings to score on any of their three power plays Sunday and stopped seven of eight chances the Edmonton Oilers had on Saturday.
Only Kronwall is seeing more ice time than Ericsson right now and the latter is making good since returning from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for three games. With injuries to Brendan Smith and Carlo Colaiacovo, Ericsson’s continued solid play will be a huge asset to the Wings this season.