When the Detroit Red Wings take on the Winnipeg Jets on Monday night, they will be without second-year defenseman Brendan Smith. Late in the third period of a 5-0 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, Smith dropped the gloves with Will Acton of the Oilers and suffered a shoulder injury as a result of the fight. His absence from the lineup opens the door for Adam Almquist to make his NHL debut, marking the second time this season the Red Wings have seen a blueline do so. Almquist was the second-to-last pick in the 2009 draft, and was one of the key pieces of a Grand Rapids Griffins team that won the Calder Cup last season.
Almquist will pair with his former AHL teammate Brian Lashoff on Monday night, as Detroit looks to keep a three-game road winning streak going. As an AHL rookie last season, Almquist scored 10 goals and had 31 points during the regular season, then added 10 points in 21 playoff games. He has shown great proficiency on the power play, and has played alongside Smith, Lashoff, Danny DeKeyser in Grand Rapids. After an impressive preseason from Almquist, it was somewhat surprising to see Xavier Ouellet get the call instead earlier in the season. The Red Wings now have the opportunity to give Almquist an extended look, with Smith out at least seven days.
The loss of Smith likely won’t hurt the Red Wings too much, as the young blueliner has struggled this season. He turned in to of his better performances last week, then took three penalties against the Oilers before fighting Acton in the final minute of play in a blowout. Almquist now gets a chance to show he can handle the job, and if he can continue his trend of succeeding at every level he could be a valuable fill-in for Detroit the rest of the season.