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Notes: Abdelkader, Green could return in Chicago

Fathers and mentors making special annual trip, some for the first time

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

TAYLOR, MICH. - The Red Wings could be getting some reinforcements back, perhaps as early as Tuesday night in Chicago against the Blackhawks.

Both Justin Abdelkader and Mike Green have been skating regularly with the team and practiced on power play units Monday during practice at the Taylor Sportsplex.

"We'll make those lineup decisions tomorrow," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "We wanted to get a practice in and make sure they we ready to go. They both I think felt good, but I'll wait for them to get evaluated by the trainers and we'll make that final decision."

Captain Henrik Zetterberg knows the importance of both players.

"It's going to be big," Zetterberg said. "Both of those guys are playing a lot of minutes for us. They're playing both situations, PP and PK, so if both back, I'm not sure if both back, looks like Greener at least is going to be back. We'll see if Abby also will be back. Both those guys comes in, it's going to help us and we got some other guys that are getting closer, so just got to build on what we're doing here and get on a run."

Abdelkader has missed the last 18 games with a knee injury that he suffered against the Florida Panthers Dec. 1.

"Felt pretty good," Abdelkader said. "We'll evaluate tomorrow and see from there. No decisions yet but it felt good. It was good to get a good skate, haven't been many practices since I've been out so it was nice to get some line rushes."

Not counting the game that Abdelkader was injured, the Wings are 5-8-3 in his absence.

"He's a guy that scores and shows he can score," Blashill said. "He's different than a lot of guys we have. He's a big body that goes to the net hard. He's good defensively. He's been an important piece. I don't want to say he's a rarity in the NHL, but a commodity in the NHL when you have size and a skill package. That's why he was picked for Team USA. With that said, it takes guys a while to get back going. It's not going to happen overnight, but I think having a Justin Abdelkader in the lineup makes us better ultimately."

Green has been out for eight games after aggravating a nagging upper-body injury on a hit by Anaheim's Ryan Kesler Dec. 17.

Despite missing that much time, Green is tied with Tomas Tatar for fifth on the team in scoring with 18 points.

"I thought Green was playing at a high, high level when he got hurt," Blashill said. "He looked like a real number one defenseman in the NHL so when he gets going it'll be big for us to have him playing at the high level again."

DADS AND MENTORS: Last year, the Wings changed it up and brought mothers on a road trip but this year it's back to fathers and mentors.

Blashill is bringing his own dad, Jim.

"He was really, I don't know the right way to say it, (peeved) last year when he found out it was a moms' trip," Blashill said. "He was asking me from the minute the schedule came out when the dads' trip was. He's really excited about it. It'll be fun. I think it's great. It's a great opportunity for my dad and all the other dads to be able to experience what our day-to-day lives are and sometimes I think certainly from a coaching perspective you get real busy and you don't get much chance to spend time with them as you want during the year so it'll be a great chance to spend time with them. My dad has been an influence on my life in a number of ways and I think it's great he can experience this."

Zetterberg said it was a different experience with the moms.

"It was a lot quieter last year than it has been before," Zetterberg said. "So we're probably back to a little more, the loud level will be a little higher this time."

Niklas Kronwall, whose brother and half-brother have made the trip quite a bit, got to take his mom, Tove, last year.

"I think that basically last year was the first time for the moms and they were thrilled," Kronwall said. "I know my mom was. She never thought it would happen. She thought it was kind of a guys' thing but she was more than excited, so happy she got to be a part of it, extremely thankful obviously for the opportunity. But I think the moms enjoyed themselves as well. I know the dads have been here a few times. For them, it's like they saw each other yesterday."

Abdelkader said his dad, Joe, will be on either his seventh or eighth trip.

"It's funny looking back, how nervous my dad was, asking what to wear and who the dads are going on the trip," Abdelkader said. "I didn't know, I was just called up. I know some of them will be excited, some have been on a few of the trips and some it will be their first."

For some of the young players like Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou, it is their first time.

"He came in last night, flew in from Montreal," Mantha said. "What I talked about with my family is he's pretty excited for sure. He's been running arenas for me since we were young, it's kind of a payback for me to him and from the team. It's going to be exciting."

Mantha said he and his father, Daniel, haven't taken a trip like this in several years.

"When I was younger, summer tournaments in Boston and Toronto, so we had road trips growing up," Mantha said. "I slept probably whole way up in the car. Just memories we bring back when we did road trips together."

Some dads are excited to see new hockey rinks but Athanasiou's father, Stan, has another interest.

"I think he's pretty excited to come on the plane," Athanasiou said. "I think he wants to sit in the cockpit because he's a pilot so I think he's more intrigued to get in there. He's pretty excited to meet the pilots. I think it'll be a lot of fun."

Stan Athanasiou is a pilot for Air Canada who is sometimes able to arrange trips to fit the Wings' schedule.

For Zetterberg and his dad, Goran, these trips are nothing new but they're always great.

"I think for both the player and the dad, it's a great time just to give back a little bit because they've been so big part of your career and your life," Zetterberg said. "To have them on the road trip and really see what we go through on the road and what we do, it's a special time. I remember my first one with my dad. But the thing is it almost gets better and better because the more time you have to spend with them and go through times like this, it's fun."

KRONWALL UPDATE: Kronwall, who suffered a lower-body injury in the Anaheim game Jan. 4, has not started skating yet.

Kronwall isn't sure about playing this week.

"I don't want to rule anything out but I also don't want to say too much and get my hopes up," Kronwall said. "We'll just take it day by day and go from there."

Of course, the first step is getting back on the ice.

"We'll see how it is tomorrow," Kronwall said. "If it's not tomorrow, we'll see how it is the day after that. Just kind of take it day by day and go from there."

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