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Alfredsson retirement could be made as early at Monday when Wings host Ottawa

DETROIT >> The Detroit Red Wings are still awaiting official word on what Daniel Alfredsson plans to do this season.

But all signs point to him not playing and most likely deciding to retire.

Darren Dreger of TSN.ca reported that Alfredsson has decided not to play this season due to a lingering disc issue in his back that has been continually aggravated by the wear and tear of game action.

An announcement could come as early as Monday, which would be fitting since the Wings host the Ottawa Senators, a team he spent his first 17 seasons with and 13 of those he was their captain.

Alfredsson’s agent, J.P. Barry, told the Wings earlier this week that it wasn’t looking good for a comeback attempt.

Alfredsson, who’ll turn 42 on Dec. 11, had this same back issue towards the end of last season, which also sidelined him.

Despite playing in just 68 games in his first season in Detroit, Alfredsson finished tied for the team lead in points (49) and had 18 goals.

He did tell the Wings in June that he wanted to play another season, but he needed to make sure his back could hold up before finally deciding on his future.

Alfredsson did skate with teammates a few days leading up to training camp in September, but then shut things down when his back started acting up again.

He did not attend training camp.

He tried again to skate a few consecutive days after camp, but once again had to shut things down.

The team would have liked to have Alfredsson back, if he was healthy, to play 60-to-65 games since he provided a right-handed shot at the point on the power play.

They weren’t going to sign him to a one-year deal until they saw he could practice a couple weeks to make sure he suffered no other setbacks.

“He understands we’re running a hockey team and what goes on with our team affects our day-to-day decisions,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said a month ago. “That doesn’t have anything to do with Alfredsson until he calls and says he wants to discuss his next move.”

Alfredsson has 444 goals and 713 assists in 1,246 NHL games.

He represented Sweden in five Olympics, winning the gold medal in 2006, but has never won the Stanley Cup.

Wings lose Nestrasil on waivers; team felt he needed AHL experience to mature

DETROIT >> Andrej Nestrasil’s time in the NHL isn’t over.

Nestrasil was claimed by the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday and will join team on their west coast road trip.

The Hurricanes are coached by former Wings assistant coach Bill Peters.

Nestrasil is required to stay on the Hurricanes’ roster for at least 30 days.

“Andrej is a young player with good size who we feel can contribute to our group of forwards,” Carolina general manager Ron Francis said in a statement. “He has improved in each of his pro seasons and took a big step last year with Grand Rapids.”

More than one team put in a claim for him.

“He’s not quite ready for this level,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said Wednesday. “It’s just one of those things. We need him to play in the American League. Maybe one day he’ll play (in the NHL). His pace was good at the start but you know the league changes.

“The best bet for him is to spend a couple years in the American League and see if he can keep growing his game,” Babcock continued. “I’m not saying someone wouldn’t pick him up and go there. I don’t know how a kid like that grows playing no minutes and sitting in the crowd.”

After playing in the first 10 games of the season, Nestrasil was a healthy scratch in five of the last eight.

“Bottom line is Nesty has to play hockey,” Wings general manager said Wednesday. “It’s great to practice in the NHL everyday but you only get better playing games. He needs to hockey.”

Nestrasil has not even had a full year in the American Hockey League.

“The NHL is not a league to be developing players,” Holland added. “If he gets claimed, we got other young forwards.”

Those forwards in Grand Rapids include Anthony Mantha, Landon Ferraro and Mitch Callahan.

Nestrasil was a long shot to make the team out of training camp after struggling in the minors.

“One of the issues the last few years has been his quickness,” Holland said. “He worked real hard to get in shape. The NHL pace is quicker, you’re thinking quicker, moving quicker.”

Nestrasil, 23, registered two assists and a minus-3 in 13 games this season.

“This is the organization I would love to play for, but if someone else claims me then I would be happy to go somewhere else and play for the organization that claims me,” Nestrasil said. “That’s hockey life, just take it and go with it.”

The Wings, who drafted Nestrasil in the third round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, 75th overall, didn’t view Nestrasil as a top six forward.

“I just feel it’s better for me to play 15 to 17 minutes a game than 7-8,” said Nestrasil, who played just under 9 minutes his last game. “I think my best games were when I played 15 minutes and the bad games, like the last two, I played like 8-9. When I’m sitting too long on the bench it’s kind of hard to jump in and contribute the way you’d like to. I think I’ve done a pretty good job and we’ll see where it’s going to take me.”

Nestrasil placed on waivers; Smith out with hand infection from fight; Mrazek starts Thursday

DETROIT >> Quick update from Wings’ practice at Joe Louis Arena before they head out to Winnipeg for a game Thursday against the Jets.

The team placed forward Andrej Nestrasil on waivers. He has until noon Thursday to be claimed by another NHL team. If he’s not he’ll head to Grand Rapids.

“He needs to play in the American Hockey League,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s not quite ready for this level. It’s just one of those things, we need him to play in the American League. Maybe one day he’ll play. His pace was good at the start but you know the league changes.”

Nestrasil has played in 13 of the Wings’ 18 games this season, registering two assists and a minus-3.

Defenseman Brendan Smith didn’t practice Wednesday and will miss Thursday’s game due to an infection in his hand he suffered during a fight midway through the third period with Columbus’ Nick Foligno.

Smith could rejoin the team in Toronto.

Pavel Datsyuk (groin) and Jonathan Ericsson (maintenance day) also didn’t practice. Babcock said Datsyuk will make the trip to Winnipeg.

Petr Mrazek will start in goal against the Jets.

“He’s been great,” Babcock said. “He’s like lots of kids, he plays better than he practices, he’s got to learn how to practice good so he can play good consistently. But he’s a real gamer and he’s been good.”

Stephen Weiss will leave and meet up with Grand Rapids to play a pair of games with the Griffins this weekend. His first conditioning stint with their AHL affiliate was cut short when he suffered soreness in his groin.

“We tried to do it two weeks ago and it didn’t happen,” Babcock said. “He’s got to get himself going. This business is straight forward. The coach and the management, they play the guys they think can help them win. When you haven’t been healthy, you’ve got to get yourself playing. We got an obligation to help him help himself so that’s what we’re trying to do but his part is to play well so he can get in the lineup and get playing.”

Weiss has played one game with the Wings this season.

Datsyuk returns; Jurco back in the lineup after three games as a healthy scratch

DETROIT >> Quick update from the Detroit Red Wings’ morning skate prior to their game at Joe Louis Arena tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Pavel Datsyuk (groin) and Tomas Jurco (healthy scratch) will both return to the lineup and skate on the same line, along with Justin Abdelkader.

“I was expecting to get back,” Jurco said. “I was just trying to work hard. Work hard at the practices and just work my way back into the lineup. Finally it’s tonight so I’m excited for it.”

Jurco had been a healthy scratch the last three games.

“I was getting frustrated before when I played, I couldn’t score,” Jurco said. “It just wouldn’t go in for me. I’ve got to stop thinking about it and just play my game and hopefully it’ll start going in.”

Jurco has no goals and two assists in 12 games.

Wings coach Mike Babcock said on Thursday that Jurco wasn’t benched because of his performance it was more he felt the lineup needed a change.

“I had a meeting with Babs and he told me the same thing,” Jurco said. “I didn’t think I didn’t play bad, I just couldn’t score. Maybe if I scored three goals before nobody would think I was playing bad. I didn’t score and I didn’t put up any great numbers. They needed a change and I was a good option for Babs to change the lineup. I’m back tonight. I can’t wait.”

“He’s a big, strong, young kid who can really skate,” Babcock said Friday. “He’s real good with the puck and we expect him to just go out there with confidence and play hard. I thought he was playing well in his last two games. We sat him out. He’s had three games to sit around and watch and decide how bad he wants to play and understand that it’s not a given. You have to earn the right to play. He’s getting an opportunity to play with Abby and Pav that are real good players and we need him to be good.”

Jurco had eight goals and seven assists in 36 games last season.

“The first time around no one expects anything,” Babcock said. “You guys didn’t even know his name, nor did I. So anything he did we said, ‘Great job, Jurcs, that a boy.’ But then what happens is when you play in the league there are expectations and if you played good there are expectations to do it again.

“The other team knows you did it and it’s a hard league,” Babcock continued. “There are a whole bunch of guys in the Guide and Record Book who did something well for one year and didn’t last in the league, and that’s why when you see these guys like (Henrik) Zetterberg and Datsyuk and (Jonathan) Toews and (Patrick) Kane and they do it year after year after year it’s not about skill as much as it is about will and determination and being a good pro.”

Datsyuk returns after missing the last two games with a sore groin.

“I haven’t played with him much,” Jurco said of Datsyuk. “He’s one of the best players in the world. It’s going to be real exciting for me. I’m going to try and enjoy the game and hopefully it’ll go well.”

Wings focused on fast start after four-day break

DETROIT >> The Wings are focused on one things after a four-day break between games … getting off to a fast start.

“We’ve definitely got to get going right away,” Drew Miller said. “We know that Chicago is a team that starts quick and they play hard. We can take a lot of positives from (the break). We got some guys that are a little beat up and could use some rest.

“We want to have a good start and establish our game right away,” Miller added. “We know they like to play with speed and we got to cut their big guys off and limit that.”

The Wings last played on Sunday.

“Any time you have four days off it’s a good thing, we’re not complaining about it but at the same time you got to make sure you get off to a good start, make sure you get your legs under you right away,” Justin Abdelkader said. “As time goes here it’s going to prove to be a great break and beneficial to us. They’re a fast-starting team. We got to make sure we match that and come out skating right away.”

Detroit only has one more four-day break between games this season and that’s comes at the start of February.

“For a couple of days you kind of check out of hockey for a bit,” Miller said. “You have days away from the rink, try to get away and get your mind elsewhere. It’s a long season. Then when you’re back at the rink, back at practice, you dial it back in and get ready to go, have some good practices and get ready for the next game.”

The Wings play 13 games in the next 24 days, playing every other day beginning Friday. Eight of their next 13 games are at home.

Wings’ new found success on power play will be tested Friday against Blackhawks’ top-ranked PK

DETROIT >> We’re going to see how much the Wings’ power play has improved Friday night.

Chicago has the top ranked penalty kill in the league, allowing just four goals on 48 chances (91.7 percent).

Detroit has scored two power play goals in each of their last three games, going 6-for-13 with the man advantage.

“The power play has been working better and better here,” Gustav Nyquist said. “Obviously, we want to keep that going, so it will be a good test tomorrow, for sure.”

The Wings went 5-for-46 (10.9 percent) with the man advantage their first 12 games.

“Obviously, it was a really slow start for us on the power play and now we’ve got some goals,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “Even if we don’t score, you have to get the momentum, and we’ve done that the last couple of games.”

Detroit, which finished 18th (17.7 percent) on the power play last season, is up to 17th this year (18.6 percent, 11-for-59) with the man advantage.

“I know the power play started slow, had trouble getting into rhythm, maybe had trouble trying to find the back of the net,” assistant coach Tony Granato said on Monday. “But I think all along it’s been building. I think it’s been really big for us the last week.

“I think the confidence that group has gained certainly moving forward should be a good thing for us,” Granato added. “You put Pav back in that mix it’s going to be even better.”

The Wings’ penalty kill (90.6) is second in the league.

“We looked good for a while and maybe didn’t get the results that we maybe wanted or deserved there and no lately we’re getting pucks in,” Jonathan Ericsson said. “It’s about getting in the groove when the pucks are bouncing and things are going your way, but sometimes it’s not going to go like that.

“Like the PK, we had bounces going with us at the beginning of the season and maybe pucks have gone in a little easier lately,” Ericsson continued. “That’s how it always happens throughout the season. We’re not going to be perfect. You have to go through those things. We work on the things we need to get better at. It’s all about the confidence level and pucks are going to start dropping in.”

Wings miss playing rival Chicago; 2013 playoff loss to Blackhawks still stings

DETROIT >> The loss overtime loss in Game 7 of the 2013 playoffs to the Chicago Blackhawks is still fresh in many of the Wings’ minds.

“The puck goes off Kronner’s skate and finds a way in,” Brendan Smith said of the game-winning goal that clanked off Niklas Kronwall’s skate and past Jimmy Howard. “It’s definitely frustrating. I thought we played really well. That year a lot of people ruled us out way before we even started the playoffs. It sucks we couldn’t finish off that one. It’s all good, but it’s tough to swallow still.”

The Blackhawks went on to win the Stanely Cup, beating Boston in six games.

What might make the loss in seven games a tougher pill to swallow is the fact Detroit was up 3-1 in the series.

“I thought it was a great series, overall,” Gustav Nyquist said. “We couldn’t finish them off. That series had a lot of emotions to it, with a lot of ups and downs. I think it was fitting that the last game went to OT in a Game 7. Unfortunately we couldn’t come up with a win there.”

The Wings host the Blackhawks on Friday, which will be Chicago’s only visit to Joe Louis Arena unless both teams reach the Stanley Cup finals.

“I miss playing a lot of the Central teams, especially Chicago,” Jimmy Howard said. “It’s always a fun atmosphere. Always an up temp game, fast, playoff atmosphere like. I’m expecting a lot of the same tomorrow.”

“These were games you were looking forward to the most every year,” Jonathan Ericsson saisd. “Tough games, fast paced games. They have a good team, we have a good team so they’re always good games. It’s a good rivalry between us.

“It is,” Ericsson continued. “I miss playing these guys. It’s always special. It’s a game with a lot of battles in it. There’s a rivalry. We’ll find new competitors and rivals in the East, but I sure miss playing these guys. If I would say one team I miss the most from the West, it’s Chicago.”