DETROIT — With the Detroit Red Wings facing elimination Friday night at Joe Louis Arena, the coaching staff again shuffled its lineup in an effort to force Game 7 in a Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Anaheim Ducks.
Among the shuffle was Carlo Colaiacovo, a defenseman who replaced Brian Lashoff in the lineup in Friday’s Game 6.
It was Colaiacovo’s 2013 playoff debut.
Lashoff was returned to Detroit’s American Hockey League affiliate in Grand Rapids, which faces Toronto in the second round of the AHL playoffs. Goalie Thomas McCollum, who played parts of three seasons with the Toledo Walleye, has joined the Red Wings.
“It’s really gratifying,” Colaiacovo told reporters Friday morning. “This is the biggest reason why I wanted to come here, this time of year, for this team. It’s been obviously tough watching, but the team’s done a good job getting us to this point.
“It’s taken a lot of patience and hard work for me to get this opportunity and I want to make the most of this. It’s a game that’s real important to us, it’s do or die. There’s no better feeling than playing playoff hockey.”
However, Colaiacovo stepped into the lineup with little playing time.
A free-agent signing after spending the past four seasons with St. Louis, he suffered a separated shoulder in January during the first week of the lockout-shortened season and played in only six games for the Red Wings, registering one goal and one assist and a minus-4 rating.
“It sucks not playing,” Colaiacovo said. “But I get my opportunity. I’ll do whatever I can to help the team win. Whether it’s being a veteran guy or helping move the puck.”
Yet he said part of his motivation in signing with the Red Wings during the off-season was earning a chance to be in a playoff situation.
Colaiacovo had three assists in 11 playoff games with the Blues in 2009 and 2012.
Colaiacovo said he learned Thursday he’d be put in the lineup for Friday’s game.
“When you’re not playing on a consistent basis, it’s a tough mental grind,” Colaiacovo said. “But you really have to get your focus back as quick as you can for a time like today.”
LYDMAN STILL OUT, ABDELKADER IN: Also rejoining Detroit’s lineup was left wing Justin Abdelkader, who returned after a two-game suspension, issued Sunday by the NHL as a result of a hit against Anaheim defenseman Toni Lydman in Game 3.
Abdelkader played on Detroit’s top line with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
Anaheim posted Thursday on its Twitter account that Lydman did not travel to Detroit with the Ducks, and that there is no timetable for his return to the lineup.
HART FINALISTS: The NHL announced Friday that Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby, Washington Capitals right wing Alex Ovechkin, and New York Islanders center John Tavares are finalists for the Hart Trophy, given annually to the NHL’s most valuable player.
The MVP award is voted on annually by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, with the top three vote-getters being named finalists.
One potential candidate took exception to the three finalists — Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf, who was not named a finalist despite scoring 15 goals and 34 assists in 44 games.
“The only time the media in the East sees anyone in the West is when we play them,” Getzlaf told ESPN.com. “You’re not going to see our games, the media, staying up to 1 or 2 in the morning to watch.”