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Mike Babcock Plans To Split Top Defensive Pairings

Nicklas Lidstrom and defensive partner Brian Rafalski have been inseparable since Rafalski joined the squad three years ago. Not anymore, says Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock.

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Speaking this morning outside Centre Ice Arena, where the Wings had their physicals in advance of Saturday’s start of training camp, Babcock explained he wants Nicklas Lidstrom with Niklas Kronwall, and Brian Rafalski with Brad Stuart. Lidstrom and Rafalski, longtime even-strength partners, will remain together on the power play.

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The goal of this is to take some of the pressure off captain Lidstrom, who’s likely entering the last year(s) of his career. Lidstrom has been a workhorse for his entire career, consistently logging 30 minutes a game.

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Babcock has tried in the past to even out the minutes but has been thwarted by injuries, especially last season. Splitting up Rafalski and Lidstrom gives each of them a physical partner capable of a big hit. Lidstrom and Kronwall have played together in the past and shouldn’t have much of a problem assimilating.

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Jonathan Ericsson will likely play with Ruslan Salei on the third pairing, but could also see time with Lidstrom. Jakub Kindl is a lock to make the squad as the seventh defenseman, but could take Ericsson’s spot if he stumbles.