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Notes: Smith focused on game, not on trade deadline

Riley Sheahan keeping upbeat attitude despite scoring drought

by Arthur J. Regner and Dana Wakiji @ArthurJRegner and @Dwakiji /

DETROIT - Brendan Smith knows that hockey is a business and he also knows he's an unrestricted free agent after this season.

So with the March 1 trade deadline approaching, it would be understandable if Smith were concerned about his future.

"It's always nice to have a deal," Smith said after Tuesday's morning skate. "You guys all know, if you have a contract, it's always nice to know that you're not unemployed after the year. I'd like to have a contract but that's kind of up in the air and just how things go. I know that teams are looking for players. There's all this talk and stuff. I don't want to speculate in any way because it's too hard for me to know. But I'm just going to keep going. What I do know is I'm here and I'm playing and I'm just going to do that."

Wings coach Jeff Blashill understands that his players are human and outside factors can weigh on them.

"Part of being a professional hockey player that I don't think is always recognized from the outside looking in, that this type of stuff happens," Blashill said. "Contract years can be a factor in people's minds at times. Trade deadline can be a factor in people's minds. The biggest thing we try to preach all the time is to control what you can control.

"The best thing for Brendan Smith is to play the best hockey he can play. That's the No. 1 thing, both for our hockey team and for himself, so let's make sure we continue to focus on what we can control. I thought Brendan was great last weekend and we'll need him to be great again tonight."

Smith said he won't think about the possibility that he could be traded while the team is on its bye.

"I'm just trying to get away and relax and get away from hockey during that time," Smith said. "I won't really think about it too much. Obviously if something happens, my agent will let me know or I'll see it on social media. You guys are pretty quick on it. Other than that, I just try to get ready to be a Wing and be ready to play and go about it like that."

Smith is planning to head to south Florida where he'll meet up with younger brother, Reilly.

Reilly Smith has already been traded twice in his young career so he could offer support if Brendan needs it.

"It's worked out well for my little brother and he's given me some good insight in that case," Smith said. "He's done well in both times he's been traded. So if I ever had to ask questions, I think he'd be able to tell me all the ins and outs. Really I'm hoping to kind of stick around and see how everything goes and if whatever happens, happens."

It's the first time in a long time that the Wings are in a position where they might be sellers at this time of year.

With just 23 games to go, including tonight against the New York Islanders, the Wings are in last place in the Atlantic Division with 58 points in 59 games.

"We've been more buyers than anything in the last couple years, picking up guys like Leggy (David Legwand) and stuff, (Marek) Zidlicky," Smith said. "So it's a little bit of a different dynamic. It's the NHL, it's a lot of fun but it's a business, too, right? So things happen and you just kind of have to roll with the punches."

Thomas Vanek is in a similar spot, playing on a one-year deal with the Wings, but the difference is Vanek has played for other teams. "I only know Red Wings hockey and I like it," Smith said. "I've loved every moment here, good and bad, they've made me a better player. It's hard for me to speculate because I don't know any different. I would like to continue to stay on the Wing path, but like I said, this is a business and you never know what happens."

SHEAHAN MAINTAINS POSITIVE ATTITUDE: Teammates and coaches encourage the slumping forward to keep plugging away. April 9, 2016, may not seem like a long time ago, but to Wings forward Riley Sheahan, it is an eternity.

It was on that date that Sheahan scored his last goal - a span of 57 games. Sheahan's goal came against the New York Rangers during the Wings' final game of last season.

Since last April, the Notre Dame product has appeared in 57 games and has accumulated nine assists and is a minus-19.

"I find myself thinking about it too much," Sheahan said. "You see all the opportunities you have and wonder why it didn't go in, it's tough. But, at the same time I'm getting chances, we still have games left to hopefully have them come in bunches (goals) so I can finish off the way I want to."

Sheahan admits that having a short memory is easier said than done when it comes to his goal-scoring slump, but he realizes that he's not alone.

Each player goes through a difficult period and though he's in a prolonged drought, he credits his teammates and coaches with keeping him focused and upbeat.

"The guys are great, we have such a good locker room here, you never feel like someone is looking at you weird because you haven't been doing as well as you want to," Sheahan said. "The coaches have been great, everyone has been great, nothing has really changed. Some bounces here and there would've been nice, but again we still have a lot of games left."

Detroit's success this past week against the Capitals and the Penguins gave the Wings as a group and Sheahan as an individual a jolt of confidence.

Sheahan likes how his line with Luke Glendening and Steve Ott are playing, generating scoring chances and chipping in a goal.

"Definitely, I was happy with the way I played with Glennie and Otter, we were rolling, it was fun playing with them," said Sheahan, "It was good to get a goal and contribute that way and we got to continue that over to tonight."

Blashill has had Sheahan's back all season long and Blashill's confidence in him is something that he appreciates.

"I am not going to complain about the ice time," Sheahan responded when asked about why Blashill still continues to give him minutes. "I think doing the little things right and doing what he asks, be smart with the puck, be sound defensively are the things if you do right he's going to play you."

From his perspective, Sheahan is trying to turn the page on his goal scoring drought even if it is approaching one full calendar year since he scored his last goal.

He keeps his focus on the big picture.

"It's been a tough year, you want to contribute as much as you can," Sheahan said. "I haven't done as well as I want to, but I still get to come to the rink every day and get to be around a good group of guys and get to play a game you grew up playing, grew up loving.

"You just try and forget about the negative things and remember how lucky you are, that this is a great opportunity. So, I am going to keep coming to every game with a new attitude."   

GETTING THE FIRST GOAL: There may be a few common threads to the Wings' victories over Washington and Pittsburgh this past weekend.

Tremendous goaltending from Petr Mrazek, a stellar penalty-killing unit and something that Detroit hasn't taken advantage of much this season: scoring the first goal.

In each win the Wings scored first, which set the tone and settled the Wings down against two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.

"It's such a tight league, it usually comes down to one goal," Wings forward Justin Abdelkader said. "If you can get that first goal, especially at home with the momentum and getting the crowd into it, can sometimes put teams on their heels.

"You fight for the first goal and you get the second one, you really make it tough on a team to come back, because the league is really tight and really tough, the margin for error is so small."

If the Wings hope to build upon the momentum of their modest two-game winning streak with their bye looming, scoring first, especially against the Islanders, seems imperative.

Heading into Tuesday's game against the Islanders at the Joe, the Wings are 12-6-6 when they score the first goal.

The Islanders are an impressive 17-6-6 when they score first.

"You are always working for that first goal," said Abdelkader. "No matter when I played here or when I was growing up, scoring the first goal is a real momentum boost and can really help a team out."

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