Brian Rafalski Out For Game One; Jonathan Ericsson in Top Pair.

Ryan Larimore@@LarimoreonSprtsContributor IMay 1, 2009

DETROIT - APRIL 18:  Brian Rafalski #28 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrates his third period goal with teammates during Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 18, 2009 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The Detroit Red Wings' top defensive pairing will have a fresh face when the puck drops around 7 PM for tonight’s game against the battle tested Anaheim Ducks. Brian Rafalski  will not play tonight because of an undisclosed injury, meaning Detroit will move Jonathan Ericsson up to the top pairing with Nick Lidstrom, and ultimately be on the ice against the best Anaheim has to offer.

Ericsson’s 6’5” 218 lbs., and he has been hidden behind the once eight-deep depth chart on the blue line. Last year, because of injury, fans saw the debut of the mountain-sized Swedish defenseman and instantly could not wait to add him to the full-time roster.

His chance to be an everyday player came late this regular season, when sturdy penalty-killing defenseman Andreas Lilja went down with a concussion after being knocked out in a fight against the Predators' Shea Weber.  He has played like a veteran defenseman since he took the trip from Grand Rapids (the Wings' minor league affiliate) to the Joe Louis and earned a spot on the third defense pairing with the speedy Brett Lebda, beating out father time Chris Chelios and the versatile Derek Meech.

In his playoff debut, all Ericsson did was score a goal—a blistering shot from the point—and deliver a few bone jarring hits. "My job out there is not to score goals but when you get a goal, it's always a bonus and you feel good about yourself," he told the Detroit news.

Ericsson gives the wings size and great speed on defense in the playoffs, and tonight, when he lines up next to Nick Lidstrom as the Wings take on the Ducks, expect him to be playing with all the confidence in the world.

best summed up by Red Wing's coach Mike Babcock

"Thank goodness we have him,It's going to be a good opportunity for him because he's going to match up against the Getzlaf line. He's a big body, he can skate well, looks like Chris Pronger, he's a good passer. He doesn't cross-check and do that stuff but does the rest.''


Chelios Steps in

Chris Chelios, at age 47, will play in his first game of the postseason, being paired up with Brett Lebda on the blue line in the Wings' third pairing.


Draper Still out

As usual around playoff time, the Red Wings are being vague about what is wrong with Kris Draper. Draper, who originally was only suppose to miss the first two games of the Wings' opening round playoff game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, will probably miss his fifth consecutive game with what is being called an “upper-body injury”.

Speculation has begun, and some are saying Draper is being benched in favor of Darren Helm.