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Notes: Abdelkader returns to lineup as Ott hits 800

Wings have had success in St. Louis but it's never an easy game

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

ST. LOUIS - 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.


TOUGH BLUES TEAM: The Wings have had good success against their former Central Division rival, winning their last three 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."


The Blues are second in the Central behind the Minnesota Wild and third in the Western Conference behind the Edmonton Oilers and the Wild.


"They've been good for a long time here," Blashill said. "The deep run last year was indicative of how good a team they've had here for a long time. They're just a team that first of all, they have a really D corps. They're very well coached. They don't give you lots of easy stuff. They get back above the puck great. They pressure you hard and they've got forwards who can score. Jake Allen is a really good goalie. I knew him when he was in the minors so I'm familiar with him. They got a real good team."


Green said the Wings just have to continue to do the things they've been doing that have gotten them five straight wins.


"They got a lot of talented players but they're also smart." Green said. "They're looking for that open ice. If we stay composed in our own zone we'll be fine."


Blashill confirmed goaltender Petr Mrazek will start against the Blues.


BIG GAME FOR OTT: It's a big game for Steve Ott in more than one way.


Not only did Ott spend three seasons with the St. Blues, he will also be playing in his 800th career NHL game tonight.


"You never think you're going to play one so to play 800 tonight, especially the bumps and bruises I've had over my career, it is (big)," Ott said after the morning skate. "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 doing my thing."


Ott, 34, had such a severe hamstring injury that it required surgery and more than three months of rehabilitation.


He said he wouldn't have been able to make it without his Blues teammates encouraging him.


"It was tough. It was a really, really hard year," Ott said. "They came over to my house a lot, they visited with me when I was in some down, dark days there when I was sitting on the couch for months and months at a time. Nothing feels better than when your teammates come over and have a beer with you and hang out and talk to you, relax a little bit and be friends. That kind of gave me the drive. We had a strong team and felt we were going to go on a deep run and it made my rehab coming in every day extremely easy to do because you knew that we had an end goal, to try to win the Stanley Cup. We had an extremely great chance at it last year."


Although they did not win the Cup last year, Ott said they forged bonds that can never be broken.


"I went out to dinner with a lot of the guys last night," Ott said. "It was great to see them. Obviously missed the boys, we had a really tight, tight team here in St. Louis last year. When you have that, you make friends for life and I have a bunch over there obviously. But today's a game day and yesterday was a friendship day."

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