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Red Wings-Blues game-day articles: Abdelkader to return for Wings; Ott to play 800th game

Updated 3x at 4:04 PM: The Red Wings and Blues held relatively uneventful morning skates ahead of tonight's game between the teams (8 PM EDT on FSD/FS Midwest/97.1 FM). Justin Abdelkader's probably going to return to the Wings' lineup, and Jori Lehtera is going to return to the Blues' lineup; Petr Mrazek will face off against Jake Allen in the goalies' respective creases.

StLouisBlues.com's Chris Pinkert posted the Blues' likely lineup...

Forwards

Robby Fabbri - Paul Stastny - Alexander Steen
Jori Lehtera - Jaden Schwartz - Vladimir Tarasenko
David Perron - Patrik Berglund - Nail Yakupov
Dmitrij Jaskin - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves

Defense

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Robert Bortuzzo - Kevin Shattenkirk
Joel Edmundson - Colton Parayko

Goalie

Jake Allen

StLouisBlues.com's Dan O'Neill filed a game preview as well:

Matchup: The Blues and Red Wings have played to overtime in three of their last four meetings and the Red Wings emerged victorious on all three occasions. Though they have only logged four wins, the Blues have collected points in seven of their last eight games against Detroit (4-1-3). Tonight will mark the 280th all-time regular season matchup between the Blues and Red Wings and the Blues have won 120 of those. Also tonight, the Blues will honor Barret Jackman, who retired from the NHL earlier this month. Jackman, who made his NHL debut against Detroit on April 14, 2002, is the all-time leader among Blues defensemen with 803 regular season games played with the club.

What to Watch: How do the Blues recover from Tuesday night? Since the beginning of the 2015-16 season (including the 2016 postseason), the Blues have lost by three or more goals on 12 occasions. In the previous 11, the Blues have followed such a loss with a 7-2-2 record. Fans will also get a chance to see Steve Ott again. The former Blue, who joined the Red Wings in the offseason, will be wearing No. 29 in white.

Fox Sports Midwest posted a Twitter-based game preview video...

If you're interested, the Blues posted videos of Jori Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz's game-day comments, too.

The Blues' beat writers were still Tweeting out post-morning-skate remarks after both morning skates ended, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeremy Rutherford...

Hitch on Ott: ""Who? Don't know him. There's a little short guy on their team wearing (No.) 29, I don't know if that's him or not."

And In the Slot/NHL.com's Lou Korac:

Steve Ott: "Obviously miss the boys. It's been a tight team here in St. Louis last year and when you have that, you make friends for life."

Rutherford also filed a game-day notebook:

Finally the Blues have enough healthy bodies that their roster became a numbers' game Thursday. Forward Jori Lehtera was activated from injured reserve, giving the Blues 24 players, one above the maximum. They, in turn, placed forward Magnus Paajarvi on waivers.

"I feel good, yeah," Lehtera said. "I feel like you but better."

Lehtera, who missed four games with a concussion, will be reunited with the "STL" line, but with a twist. The center will move to left wing, keeping Jaden Schwartz in the middle and Vladimir Tarasenko on right wing.

The Blues will start the game that way for tonight's 7 o'clock game against the Detroit Red Wings at Scottrade Center, according to Ken Hitchcock, and see where that takes them.

"We know the chemistry he has with Vlad, which is a good sign," Hitchcock said. "But quite frankly, he was our best forward, the way he was playing before he got hurt. Through exhibition games and the start of the league play, this is as good as he's played since he's been here. So what we're getting is another good player back. We've added Schwartz and we've added Lehtera now, and when you get two really good players like that back, it really gives you the depth on your team that your looking for. He was playing great hockey and hopefully we can get him back up to speed."

David Perron had been playing with Schwartz and Tarasenko, but he'll move down with Patrik Berglund and Nail Yakupov. Perron said it'll be good to get Lehtera back.

"For sure, it's another play-maker on the team, and the more guys that can make plays, the better," Perron said. "We want to score more goals, but it's also making sure that we work hard to play the right way."

In the Red Wings' room, the Free Press's Helene St. James noted the Wings' lineup...

Steve Ott spotted his name on the board in the visitors’ dressing room in his old arena and laughed.

Teammates had him on the board because tonight's game between the Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues (8 p.m., FSD)  will be the 800th of his career. Ott played for the Blues before signing with the Wings in July.

“Yeah, he’s excited,” Justin Abdelkader said, smiling. “He’s close with a lot of the guys over there. It should be a little extra special for him, for sure."

Abdelkader said he is ready to return after missing two games with a mid-lower body injury. During the morning skate, he practiced on a power play unit and on the fourth line with Luke Glendening and Ott, subbing in with Drew Miller. Frans Nielsen centered Dylan Larkin and Gustav Nyquist, Henrik Zetterberg was with Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar, and Darren Helm with Thomas Vanek and Andreas Athanasiou. The defense pairings were the same as the last three games.

And she spoke with the Red Wings regarding the challenge that the St. Louis Blues present...

“It’s going to be a good test for us,”  Zetterberg said. “It’s always hard games when we come in and play in this building. We’ve got to survive the start here and get into the game.”

The Wings beat Western Conference powerhouses Nashville and San Jose last weekend, and then beat Carolina at home Tuesday.

“Over the last three games for the most part, we’ve played the type of hockey it takes to be successful. We’ve managed the puck better coming out of our end, and we’ve played to our identity. We’ve been relentless with our pressure. We’ve been fast in our transition, and we’ve been really competitive. Those are the three things we want to be all the time.”

Video of Henrik Zetterberg, Justin Abdelkader and coach Blashill's comments included:

MLive's Brendan Savage filed a game-day article as well, discussing Justin Abdelkader's return:

"Took some line rushes so feeling good," Abdelkader said. "It feels like a lot longer but only two games, so feel good now. So hopefully past it. We've been wining though so it always makes it more enjoyable but it's never easy sitting down watching for sure."

Although Abdelkader has just one goal and a minus-2 rating in five games, the Red Wings value him for more than statistics. He's a net-front presence on the power play, is one of their most physical players and goes to the aid of teammates when opponents take liberties.

"He's a huge force out there," said defenseman Mike Green. "Abby's a guy that maybe isn't the flashiest but you look at the stat sheet at the end of the game and he's got five hits, five shots and four points. So he's the type of guy that we need in the dressing room and around the game. It works out to have him back."

Petr Mrazek will start in goal as the Red Wings try to extend their winning streak to six games. They've also won their last four games in St. Louis, the past two coming in the final minute of overtime. Why the recent success in St. Louis?

"They're always really tight games," Abdelkader said. "I think is a building that historically we've played well in. Even our losses, they've been close games so it's always a good challenge here. They're always a really good team, a heavy team that gets in on the forecheck and likes to grind you. It'll be a good test for us but we're looking forward to it."

Abdelkader suggested that the Wings need to shut down the Blues' PP to survive tonight's game:

"They pack it in really tight, four inside a lot," Abdelkader said. "So I think we've got to have a shot mentality tonight and try to be on the inside with a guy sitting there for sure.

"This is an old division rival for a lot of us in here. We know these guys, we know how they play. It's always really tight, no room. They're always low-scoring games, it seems like, and always games that are really tight. There's not much room out there. We just got to be prepared to get through the neutral zone, limit our turnovers and know how we need to play to be successful."

FYI:

Update: From ESPN's Victoria Matiash's "Fantasy 30":

Detroit Red Wings: With Justin Abdelkader set to return to action on Thursday, it presents an interesting lineup decision to coach Jeff Blashill. Namely, what is to be done with Andreas Athanasiou, who's been excellent as Abdelkader's lineup substitute (two goals, one assist in two games)? If nothing else, the club has learned it can lean on Athanasiou when injury strikes in the top six.

Update #2: Per MLive's Brendan Savage:

Miller sitting with Abdelkader playing for #RedWings

Among In the Slot's Lou Korac's game notes:

It's a reunion of sorts with another ex-teammate for the Blues when they entertain the red-hot Detroit Red Wings, winners of five in a row, today at 7 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM). After entertaining Brian Elliott and Troy Brouwer with the Calgary Flames on Tuesday, the Blues welcome friend Steve Ott back with the Wings tonight. Ott, who was acquired before the NHL Trade Deadline along with Ryan Miller from the Buffalo Sabres late in the 2013-14 season, spend the past two-plus seasons in St. Louis, including last year's run to the Western Conference Final.

"It started when I landed obviously. I went out to dinner with a lot of the guys last night and it was great to see them," Ott said. "Obviously miss the boys. It's been a tight team here in St. Louis last year and when you have that, you make friends for life. I have a bunch over there obviously, but today's a game day and yesterday was a friendship day. The emotions are always ramped up. That's the human nature of everything. I want to try and play my way as much as possible, but we're here business-wise. It's another game obviously. I've done this a few times obviously when you've played your ex-teammates as you move along in your career. For us, we want to keep something as we're building as the Detroit Red Wings. We're winning games, we're playing the right way and our total game's starting to come together and that's the big picture."

...

Tonight will also mark the 800th NHL game for Ott.

"This is something," Ott said. "You never think you're going to play one, so to play 800 tonight, especially with as many bumps and bruises as I've had over my career, you never know when your last milestone is. This could be it, so who knows. Continue to push forward and continue to keep going and do my thing."

When Ott became a free agent this past summer, choices would be limited, and when it became obvious he wouldn't return to St. Louis, he wanted to get closer to his home of Summerside, Prince Edward Island. Ott played junior hockey for the Windsor Spitfires, across the Detroit River.

"You know what, absolutely. I talked to my agent right way and I said, 'Just try to land me a job in Detroit," Ott said. "This is where I've always wanted to play. I grew up a big Wings fan. It's close to home, and to have the opportunity to play in front of friends and family every single home game, it's something really special to me. I've really, really enjoyed my time here. It's a great organization and we're having a lot of fun."

Korac continues...

And Fox Sports Midwest posted a clip of Ott's game-day remarks:

Update #3: Among DetroitRedWings.com's Dana Wakiji's notes...

Justin Abdelkader pronounced himself ready to go after Thursday's morning skate at St. Louis' Scottrade Center.

 

"Took some line rushes so feeling good," Abdelkader said. "It feels like a lot longer but only two games, so feel good now. So hopefully past it."

Abdelkader missed two games with a lower-body injury. Teammate Mike Green said they're happy to have Abdelkader back.

"He's a huge force out there," Green said. "Abby's a guy that maybe isn't the flashiest but you look at the stat sheet at the end of the game and he's got five hits, five shots and four points. So he's the type of guy that we need in the dressing room and around the game so it works out to have him back."

Scottrade Center is a happy place for Abdelkader dating back to his days at Michigan State.

"It's always good coming back in this building, especially for myself," Abdelkader said. "This is where we won our national championship so I've had pretty good memories here and I enjoy playing here. It's always nice coming back for sure. Extra special."

Abdelkader scored the game-winning goal in the 2007 title game against Boston College.

Based on the morning skate, Drew Miller will be the odd man out tonight, but coach Jeff Blashill said final lineup decisions will be made after warm-ups.

And among the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan's notes:

‘We believe in both’: Goal scoring is up and save percentages are down, generally speaking, around the NHL in the opening couple weeks. But the Red Wings’ goaltending duo of Petr Mrazek (who started against the Blues) and Jimmy Howard have been exceptions to the rule. Both Mrazek (.917 save percentage, 2.82 GAA in five games) and Howard (.984, 0.50, two games) are off to good starts.

“If you go through the league right now, it doesn’t take a long look to realize how important it is to have depth at every position, and goaltending is critical with that,” Blashill said. “They’ve both played excellent. The five games (streak) -- part of that is we’ve had excellent goaltending. When you have excellent goaltending, you don’t see some mistakes. When you have poor goaltending, every mistake is glaring. We believe in both of those guys. We believe both will have an impact on our year and hopefully they can keep getting better every day and have similar results.”

Ott's No. 800:  Steve Ott was returning to St. Louis Thursday, where he was a key presence on the Blues for the last two and half seasons, but it was also game No. 800 in Ott’s NHL career.

Blashill feels Ott has been a big contributor to the Red Wings in the early going.

“He brings energy to the locker room; we needed some of that energy,” Blashill said. “He’s a fun guy to be around. He brings camaraderie and that’s a real critical part to winning. On the ice he’s been a real good, complete player. He wins face-offs, on the left side especially, he’s a good penalty killer, and he also provides energy in physicality but he’s accountable defensively. Those are rarities in the league. He’s had a real good impact so far.”

Kulfan posted a video of Blashill speaking with the media as well:

 

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

RWBill's avatar

Miller sitting with Abdelkader returning. -
OK, glad it was not AA.  Would have understood if it was Sheahan.
If they move AA to 4th line instead of staying with Helm I will be disappointed.

Just as soon see AA with Helm, Miller stay in on 4th, and Riley sit.

Posted by RWBill on 10/27/16 at 03:11 PM ET

Avatar

AA-Vanek-Helm was our best line in the last two games. Last year Blashill would change the line that has been producing, hopefully he learned this year.

Posted by VPalmer on 10/27/16 at 03:52 PM ET

Avatar

AA-Vanek-Helm was our best line in the last two games. Last year Blashill would change the line that has been producing, hopefully he learned this year.

Posted by VPalmer on 10/27/16 at 04:52 PM ET

On a similar note:  Helm/Vanek/Nyq had been our best line.  When they moved Nyq due to Abby being out I cringed.  The good news is that Nyq is currently making those around him better, as is Helm and Vanek so far, so the moves worked.

Shehan is currently playing the role of Jurco from last year, we know he can be better but it’s just not showing up.  He really needs to get it going… hopefully tonight.

Posted by Ventr on 10/27/16 at 05:17 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.

 

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