Detroit Free Press

Rookie defenseman Edvinsson ‘a big boost’ for Wings in playoff chase

- Helene St. James Contact Helene St. James at . Follow her on Twitter @helenestja­mes .

TAMPA, Fla. – Just how much Simon Edvinsson has grown his game showed in the decision the Detroit Red Wings coaching staff made in the latest lineup decision.

With Jake Walman available again after being sidelined since March 17 by a lower-body injury, someone else had to come out — and that was Olli Määttä, a veteran of 678 NHL games. That’s a nice nod for Edvinsson, who took 17 career games, nine of them from last season, into Monday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“He breaks pucks out, manages his game, has the long stick, keeping plays alive — he’s been really, really good,” coach Derek Lalonde said after the morning skate at Amalie Arena. “What’s exciting for us is his consistenc­y.”

Lack of consistenc­y and a penchant for highrisk plays were the biggest knocks on Edvinsson after his late-season audition last year, and played into general manager Steve Yzerman’s decision to bring in newcomers in defensemen Shayne Gostisbehe­re, Jeff Petry and Justin Holl last offseason. Edvinsson was sent to the minors when this season began, and worked on his deficienci­es. He had 29 points and a plus-5 rating in 52 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins; last season, he had 27 points and a minus-3 rating, also in 52 games. Edvinsson was called up in December, but only appeared in two games before being re-assigned.

Now the big Swede — he’s 6 foot 6 in person, around 6 foot 8 on skates — is part of the lineup that is trying to edge into the playoff picture with two weeks to go.

“Even his earlier call-up, and his time last year, some mistakes would find him,” Lalonde said. “He’s limiting those. He’s been a big boost for us.”

Edvinsson’s developmen­t is key for the Wings; as their first pick, at No. 6, in the 2021 draft, they’re counting on him to help push them out of the rebuild and back towards being a playoff team again.

“I feel like I’ve been more consistent in my game,” Edvinsson said. “I feel like the defensive part has been good and there’s improvemen­t in building the offense — I feel that’s going to come with time.

“You read the game different from the first time you are up. Of course mistakes are going to come, but you try to cancel as many of them as possible. I’ve felt pretty good, actually. I feel like I’m in a good spot.”

Ville Husso back home

Lalonde said Ville Husso, who had been on the trip, returned to Detroit to get another image of the lower-body injury that has troubled him since Dec. 20. “He’s progressin­g, but there’s a wide time frame on it, and is still unavailabl­e for us.” Husso had been taking reps with the Wings, but for now, plans to send him to the minors for a conditioni­ng stint remain on hold.

 ?? PAUL SANCYA/AP ?? “What’s exciting for us is his consistenc­y,” Wings coach Derek Lalonde said of defenseman Simon Edvinsson.
PAUL SANCYA/AP “What’s exciting for us is his consistenc­y,” Wings coach Derek Lalonde said of defenseman Simon Edvinsson.

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