DETROIT, MI - When the Calgary Flames roll into the Joe Louis Arena for the final time, they will face a Detroit Red Wings lineup bolstered by the return of forward Thomas Vanek.
The veteran has missed the last 11 games with a hip strain, a frustrating experience compounded by the team's struggles. In their last 10 games, the Red Wings are 2-7-1.
"It's never fun to be injured. It's never fun to watch," Vanek said after the Red Wings morning skate. "Obviously, it's especially harder when the team is losing, to watch. When you're not playing games and the team is going good, it's a lot easier.
"I'm looking forward to being back and hopefully can start contributing again."
While their last stretch of games doesn't have the most flattering record, Vanek is optimistic about his club's play.
"I think most of the games, I don't think we were outplayed by much. What it is right now is that too many guys are lacking a little confidence. This is a game about confidence. If you feel good about yourself, you're going to create more and score more goals."
Tonight, Vanek is expected to play alongside Dylan Larkin and Frans Nielsen. He has some familiarity with Nielsen, which will help ease his way back into the game after missing a month of action.
"I played with (Nielsen) a little bit back on the island there, so I know his game pretty well. Obviously (Larkin) brings a lot of speed to the line.
"Hopefully we can find some chemistry early. Between (Nielsen) and I, we have a little bit of it. Somehow, the two of us have to find it with (Larkin) and use his speed to our advantage."
In seven games this season, Vanek has four goals and eight points.