Schneider's Words Of Wisdom
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- They could hear the ebb and flow of the crowd noise at Joe Louis Arena in the background, the highs and lows as the game went on.
Mathieu Schneider asked Brett Lebda to come into an office deep down in the arena, Saturday afternoon, as Game 5 of the Red Wings/Sharks playoff series was happening.
Schneider's wrist was throbbing. He was checked by San Jose's Patrick Marleau not long before and used his arms to cushion the impact. Schneider's wrist was thus broken on a harmless looking play.
Before going to the hospital, Schneider saw Lebda in street clothes in the locker room, watching the game. Lebda was close to returning from an ankle injury that kept him out for two weeks.
Schneider, 37, pulled Lebda, 25, aside, closed the door and started to talk. Schneider knew that his injury meant the end of his playoffs. Lebda was going to go into the lineup in his place.
It was a moment that touched Lebda. You could see his motivation as he suited up for Sunday's practice at the HP Pavilion.
"Between me and him, we had a heart-to-heart, (telling me) what to do now," said Lebda. "I don't want to say passing the torch because this is a huge loss for our team. But he gave me some words of wisdom and it really touched home with me. Just little things of what to do and what to expect. He knows the way I play."
Unless he has a setback at today's morning skate, Lebda will be in the lineup tonight for Game 6 (9 p.m., FSN).
The Red Wings already have one call-up from Grand Rapids, Kyle Quincey, playing on the blue line. If Lebda isn't ready to go, call-up Derek Meech is the next option.
"What we're not going to do is put Lebs in a position to be hurt," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "If he's ready to go, he's playing. If he's not ready to go, Meechy will go. There's nothing we can do about it. It wasn't our plan. Obviously we'd like Nik Kronwall to be playing, Lebda to be playing and Mathieu Schneider to be playing. Those are good, good, good players. They're not (playing). What do you do? Next. To me, this time of year, you've got to find a way to win."
Lebda's two rounds of playoff experience will be a welcome addition as will his power-play abilities. With Schneider out, Detroit went with Nicklas Lidstrom and forward Mikael Samuelsson as the first power-play pairing and Chris Chelios and Danny Markov as the second.
Schneider, Lidstrom and Kronwall were the Red Wings' top three defensemen this season in terms of ice time.
"Hopefully Lebs will be back in the lineup," said Chelios. "We've got a couple of other kids here too who also can play and have a little bit of experience. You can't replace Schneids -- the skill level of a defenseman like that. We'll have to pick up the slack. I guess the big thing is just get the puck to Nick (Lidstrom). Since he's your best player, he'll make the right play. Basically, I'm just out there for the support. If I can chip in, great."
While Lebda's return is imminent, what's ahead for Schneider is a second opinion, then likely surgery which will leave him in a cast for eight weeks.
"He can be part of the coaching staff (the rest of the playoffs)," joked Babcock. "Wiley, old veteran like that might as well have him on board."