Meech adjusts to life up front
"I'll play goal if that gets me in the game," said Meech.
That's not likely to happen. What has happened, however, is Meech -- a life-long defenseman -- has been inserted into the Detroit Red Wings' lineup as a forward. Saturday night against the Bruins, Meech played his sixth straight game up front.
Meech did play a handful of games at forward last season as well as a few games up front when he was a 16-year-old rookie in juniors.
The reason for Meech being played at forward for half of his 12 games this season can be traced back to July 2. That's when the Red Wings signed Marian Hossa as a free agent, ensuring that Detroit would be pressed tight against the top of the NHL's salary cap all season long.
In fact, the Wings are so tight to the cap that they've carried just 22 players all season -- one less than the roster limit.
So when forwards like Tomas Holmstrom (back spasms) and Darren McCarty (groin strain) go down with injuries, the Red Wings are simply out of forwards to throw over the boards.
Meech, the team's 24-year-old spare defenseman, fills the void.
"As a young kid, you don't want to just follow the team around practicing," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "So the more he can get in the lineup, the better it is for him and long-term the better for us."
Meech has skated on the fourth line, which means that ice time is doled out in small portions. In four of Meech's first five games up front this season, he played less than 10 minutes.
"It's an adjustment," said Meech. "I think it's important for me being on that fourth line to go out there and get that energy going. I need to get myself into the game because you never know when that next shift is going to be. I just have to get in there early. I'm starting to realize that now. Try to fire the boys up early with some energy."
As for the nuts and bolts of the position, covering the opposition point in the Detroit defensive zone has proved to be the toughest adjustment for Meech because it's the most foreign thing for someone trained as a defenseman. Forwards often have their back to point men and playing with your back to the opposition isn't something that defensemen often do.
"That sort of thing, defensemen never do," said Meech. "That's the biggest adjustment, being in the right spot in the defensive zone. Knowing that as a 'D', I'm coming down to hammer that forward. I'm just trying to keep my head up, stop the puck and not let it go to the point."