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Wings set to debut their ‘all center’ line tonight against Flyers

DETROIT >> The center of attention, so to speak, in Wednesday’s Wings home game against the Philadelphia Flyers will be their third line.

Pavel Datsyuk will center Darren Helm and Stephen Weiss.

All three are natural centers.

“We might be the only line in the NHL with three natural centers, so we should have success on the dot, hopefully, and some pretty good skill with Pav and Weisser,” Helm said. “We have to find a way to click pretty early.

“There are definitely some different aspects to our games that could gel together if we find a way to click, and it is exciting for me at least, playing with those two skilled, confident guys,” Helm continued. “If we find a way to click or gel it will be fun and pretty exciting.”

Datsyuk has missed his four straight games with a groin injury and six of the last eight.

“It’s very important for us to have him back,” Weiss said. “It’s a big boost to our lineup to have him back. Anytime he misses a game, it seems like it’s too long.”

Former Wing Kris Draper said playing on a line with Datsyuk was like winning the lottery.

“It definitely feels that way,” Weiss said. “When I saw the sheet this morning I had a little grin on my face. He makes the game a lot easier for the guys that play around him.”

Datsyuk is considered one of the best two-way players in the game if not the best.

“His ability to get the puck back is just one of the skill sets that separate him from a lot of other guys in the league, his ability to play defensively and steal pucks and turn it into offense,” Weiss said.

Datsyuk has been limited to 45 games in 2013-14 due to a knee injury and concussion. This season he’s already missed 11 of 21 games due to a separated shoulder and groin pull.

“He’s a guy I grew up watching, really and now to have a chance to play with him, it’s pretty cool,” Weiss said. “But you can’t be worried about that too much. I’ve just got to worry about what I’ve got to do and hopefully we can find some chemistry, the three of us.”

Datsyuk has five goals and six assists in 10 games this season.

“I thought initially it took him a bit to get back and then he was on fire and got hurt again,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “The big thing for Pav is as you get a little older in your career your physical fitness and the amount of care you take in keeping your body healthy is so important.

“He’s a high-end player for us,” Babcock continued. “I haven’t put him with (Henrik Zetterberg) on purpose just because … if he gets going maybe I’ll do that but right now leave him where he is and play him on a separate power play. I don’t think you can ever go wrong with having Datsyuk in your lineup.”

Not only is the line all centers, but they’ve all missed significant playing time over the past three seasons, combining to miss 306 regular-season games over that span – Weiss (140), Helm (83), Datsyuk (83).

Weiss had two goals in his return to the lineup Monday, doubling his output since joining the Wings two off-seasons ago.

“All signs are pointing towards being over the hump,” Weiss said.

Weiss nets a pair in Wings’ win over Senators; he said he ‘never lost confidence’

DETROIT >> If Stephen Weiss was looking for a glimmer of hope that he’s still the point-producing forward the Wings signed two offseasons ago, he got just that Monday night at Joe Louis Arena.

Weiss scored twice in Detroit’s 4-3 win over the Ottawa Senators.

It was just his second game this season with the Wings.

Due to a lingering groin injury that developed into a sports hernia, Weiss has played in just 28 since the start of 2013.

It was also his first goal with the Wings since Oct. 14, 2013 and his first two-goal game since Feb. 26, 2012 while still with the Florida Panthers.

“I never lost confidence,” Weiss said. “It was just a matter of when you haven’t played in so long, coach has a tough time putting you in situations where you’ve always played and rightfully so. Even in practice, you’re not playing power play and getting those reps I have throughout my career. It’s just a matter of sticking with it. Hopefully get a break here or there to stay in the lineup for a couple games, build some momentum and off you go.”

Weiss had a goal in each of his conditioning games this past weekend with Grand Rapids.

“Scoring,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said when asked what Weiss can add to the lineup. “The guy’s got 60 points in the league a ton of times. That doesn’t happen by accident. But in your career, when you get hurt and you miss a couple of years, there’s no guarantee you’re getting it back.

“Weisser has played (three) games, two in the American League, and he’s got (four) goals,” Babcock continued. “Scoring is scoring. Not many guys can do that. We acquired him initially because we thought he could help us score and he spent two years on IR basically. Hopefully he can get his confidence back and get going.”

Weiss, 31, managed to play just 26 games last season totaling two goals, two assists and a minus-4. He had sport hernia surgery on Dec. 23 and then a second procedure on April 21 to repair an issue with scar tissue.

“I felt good physically,” said Weiss, who had 10:42 of ice time Monday. “We didn’t play a ton, but when I was out there I would still like to create more. It was a decent start. I felt healthy, had good legs and hopefully it just keeps snowballing in that direction.”

Weiss drove to the net hard and chipped in a loose puck over Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson’s right shoulder to put the Wings up 3-1 just past the halfway point of the game.

“That’s where you’re going to score goals,” Weiss said. “It was nice having pucks lying around there. Sometimes you go there and they’re going off skates and away from you and tonight they were there lying there for me. It’s nice to get those breaks.”

His second goal came in similar fashion, positioning himself in front of Anderson. After Anderson made a right pad save on Darren Helm, Weiss calmly backhanded a shot over the goal line.

“This is the best league in the world,” said Weiss, who played left wing on a line with Tomas Jurco and centered by Darren Helm. “It’s hard enough when you’re in a groove and playing well never mind when you’ve missed so many games, you’re in, you’re out, you’re in, you’re out. You’re playing different positions. It’s tough to do what you’ve done throughout your career.

“Like I said, it felt good to be in the lineup, it was nice to get a couple of goals and get the win,” Weiss added. “But I’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

Weiss had a rough preseason, registering just an assist and was a minus-4 in six games.

“Anytime you can score it gives you confidence,” Weiss said. “You remember how to do it. I always said it takes a bounce or something to go your way and then it starts snowballing. Hockey is funny that way. You see if with a lot of guys. To get those two down (in Grand Rapids) was huge. I had some bounces and hopefully I’ll keep scoring.”

The Wings targeted Weiss on the first day of free agency two off-seasons ago and landed the center for a hefty five-year deal worth $24.5 million.

Weiss has had scored 20 or more goals four times in his last seven seasons in Florida.

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 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.

Four-day break gives Wings chance to work while resting

DETROIT >> The Detroit Red Wings are doing what most would think a team would do during a four-day break between games … rest up.

“It’s kind of a unique opportunity for us to not have any games this week after just finishing a stretch where we had a lot of games in a short amount of days,” forward Justin Abdelkader said.

The Wings returned to practice Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena and won’t play again until hosting the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday.

Detroit will only have one more four-day break between games this season, at the start of February.

“It gives us a chance to do some work, it also gives the guys a chance to freshen up,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We didn’t like our game as much the last little bit. We think we can be better, so it gives us a real focal point here. We did some work here on Monday when I was away, and we’ll have a good specialty teams day (Thursday) and get some tempo in and then we play a real good Blackhawks team.”

The Wings play 13 games in the next 24 days, playing every other day beginning Friday.

“We’ll spend a lot of time working on the contact part of the game,” Babcock said. “When you play every second day you don’t get to do as much box outs and D-zone coverage and the physical part of the game.”

Eight of Detroit’s next 13 games are at home.

“I think just getting back to watching some video, looking at our segments, each segment as we go through the five-game stretches,” Abdelkader said. “These last five games we haven’t been as good defensively as we need to be, given up too many goals. We know we need to improve and what we need to do, just getting back to our work habits and our structure that takes care of us.”

The team worked mostly on battle drills, which included 3-on-3s and 2-on-2s on Tuesday.

“I think guys had a really good day off, kind of got refreshed and rejuvenated,” Abdelkader said. “Guys were energized. Guys realize what’s at hand, we haven’t played the way we’re capable of or the way we wanted to the last three, four, five games. We know we need to get better.”

Wings losing out on valuable points due to their poor showings in shootouts

DETROIT >> The NHL’s skills competition to decide games that don’t end in regulation or overtime hasn’t been kind to the Detroit Red Wings.
The Wings are 0-3 in the shootout, scoring just one goal and allowing five.

“It’s points on the table that you’d like to have,” Detroit assistant coach Tony Granato said. “I think we’ve got good shooters, we’ve got good goalies, so hopefully we can take advantage of that and figure out how to get some points out of that.”

Detroit practiced breakaways during practice on Monday for the first time all season. And it’s a skill they rarely have worked last season.

“You have to be comfortable and right now I don’t think any of us are,” Jimmy Howard said. “It’s one of those things you can do it in practice, but once you get 20,000 people watching you it might get a little nerve wracking. I don’t know I’m not a shooter. I can only imagine it’s probably not one of the best feelings.”
The Wings have scored on only 1-of-8 shots, while allowing five goals on seven shots (all against Howard).

“It could go either way in a shootout,” said Gustav Nyquist, who has Detroit’s lone goal in the shootout. “We’ve got to find a way to score.

“We’ve got to take care of business there and we haven’t,” Nyquist continued. “If you don’t take care of shootouts, that’s a lot of lost points. Every point is still important. Down the stretch we know from last year and two years ago, it’s been close. You know those shootout points are really going to matter. We got to find a way to get them.”

Since the league added the shootout to decide games, the Wings are 43-53, scoring 104 goals and allowing 107.

“Just get comfortable with a couple moves you might want to use, I think that’s the biggest thing,” Nyquist said. “You try to have a few different (moves) because the goalies scout you a little bit. If you only have one move the goalies are going to know what you’re doing. You try to have a few moves you can go to. You’re hoping that will work out.”

Over the last three seasons Detroit is just 7-17 in shootouts.

“In games, breakaways are a lot easier,” Stephen Weiss said. “All of a sudden you’re on a breakaway. You don’t have time to think about what to do. On a shootout you’ve got time. You might have a couple guys go before you and start second guessing your move. You just have to go in and shoot the puck.

“I don’t think (being fancy is) your intent,” Weiss continued. “Sometimes when you miss it may look that way, but you’re trying to score. The hardest part is having that much time to think about what you’re going to do. Sometimes you think yourself out of things.”

Many of the Wings feel the shootouts have run its course.

“I think a lot of guys are getting sick of it,” said Howard, who’s allowed 45 goals on 150 shots in shootouts. “There are a lot of different reasons for it. It was fun at the beginning, but I think how we’re deciding games it’s a tough way. Sometimes it’s not indicative of how you played. You get in the shootout and the pucks go in and all of a sudden you didn’t have a good game.”

“If they want to get rid of the shootouts go right to five minutes of 3-on-3,” Weiss said. “I think you would see a lot of games ending in 3-on-3. I think the players would love it. The fans would love it and you’d get rid of a lot of shootouts.”

“I heard some ideas about going to a 3-on-3,” Nyquist said. “I kind of like the idea. I think that’s going to end a lot of games. For sure you’re going to get chances. I think the crowd likes the shootout, but I think the 3-on-3 sounds pretty interesting.”

Jonas Gustavsson out “quite a while … we’re talking weeks” according to Wings GM Ken Holland

DETROIT >> Jonas Gustavsson is back in a familiar spot … injured reserve.

Gustavsson will be out “quite a while” after dislocating his left shoulder during the Wings’ 4-3 overtime loss Wednesday night to the New York Rangers.

“We know it’s dislocated because they had to pop it back in after the game last night,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said during a phone interview Thursday. “He’s going to have x-rays later today or (Friday). He’s out quite a while, we’re talking weeks. I don’t know how many. How severe is it? Does it need anymore more than time? I don’t know all that. Bottom line is he’s out quite a while. I just don’t have any timeframe.”

Gustavsson, who is no stranger to shoulder injuries, was injured reaching for a loose puck in overtime just as the Rangers’ Derick Brassard was firing it into the open net in overtime.

“I don’t know if he needs surgery or doesn’t need surgery,” Holland said. “I know it’s dislocated. He’s out for a significant period of time.”

The Wings recalled Petr Mrazek from Grand Rapids to replace Gustavsson.

“We feel fortunate we have the depth know in goal,” Holland said. “(Mrazek’s) a third-year pro. He had a good preseason. In the few outings he had last year he played good.

“I think in the earlier going with Jimmy Howard, our goaltending has been good,” Holland continued. “(Gustavsson is) 1-1-1. He was a big part in us making the playoffs last year. We’re disappointed he’s gotten this significant injury. From a team standpoint we feel really good we have Petr Mrazek.”

Gustavsson, who signed a one-year deal at $1.85 million this offseason to return to Detroit, spent most of his first two seasons with the Wings on the trainer’s table.

Battling injures from groins to shoulders, Gustavsson appeared in just 34 regular-season games with the Wings over two seasons.

Gustavsson, 30, missed a total of 23 games on five separate occasions with three different types of injuries last season, but groin injuries have been his Achilles heel since signing a free agent deal with the Wings.

When Gustavsson played, he played well last season, going 16-5-4 with a 2.63 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage. He appeared in the final two games of the playoffs, filling in for Howard, who was sidelined with the flu.

Along with missing 18 games due to a groin injury last season, he appeared in just seven of the 48 games during the lockout-shortened first season in Detroit, making just four starts. He didn’t play over the final 27 games of the season, which included the playoffs.