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Notebook: Smith wants to contribute; Marchenko back

Marchenko enjoyed the World Cup, hopes to be better player this season

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT - Brendan Smith knows he can contribute and he wants to be able to do so on a regular basis.

Although Smith played in 63 games last season, he was sometimes a healthy scratch when all the defensemen were healthy.

"I think coaches are going to give me a little bit more of an opportunity and I just got to kind of grasp that," Smith said. "I thought I played really well last year when I was in. I just want to pick up where I left off, make good first outlet passes and try to maybe contribute offensively. It kind of sounds repetitive, I say that every year, but I just want to keep getting better and make more strides going forward."

Smith, 27, had three goals and 12 assists last season.

During the 2013-14 season, Smith had five goals and 14 assists in 71 games, so he does have plenty of offensive ability, which the Wings want to see.

"The biggest focus we've had with him is we want him to continue to do a real good job of pushing offense, meaning get up in the play, be active in the O-zone," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "We've talked tons about on our breakouts our D beating people up the ice, which I think he can do a real good job of."

Of course, the Wings want Smith to be solid defensively as well.

"Two areas defensively that I want him to keep working at and we've focused on this going back to last year's meetings is one, stick on puck, it's a stick on puck league, the puck does the damage, so be physical but make sure you get stick on puck and two just to eliminate big mistakes, that's been our focus with him," Blashill said.

The Wings have played Smith with Danny DeKeyser in the early going of preseason but that could change depending on players' health and whoever makes the team.

"I haven't played with DK very much, maybe a couple periods at the most in the last couple years," Smith said. "He's really easy to play with. He's a fantastic player. He makes great plays, He's just going to help my game. I think we've got pretty good chemistry so far. We've only played one game, so it's hard to say, but in the Red and White game, in practices, I feel we have a good read of each other, but he's going to make me better because he's so good himself. He simplifies the game. I'm really excited about that. I don't know how long it will last. At this moment I like our progression but you never know with injuries and stuff."

MARCHENKO BACK: Defenseman Alexey Marchenko practiced for the second straight day with the Wings Sunday.

Marchenko played for Team Russia during the World Cup.

"It was great," Marchenko said. "We enjoyed every game - every day, every game. I appreciate it because you play against the best players in the world with the best Russian guys so I think that's a great experience before the season."

Although most of the World Cup players missed training camp and the start of preseason, Marchenko hopes the tournament will give them a jump start for the NHL season.

"I think it's good to start the season with this so maybe you get good competition level right away," Marchenko said. "So I hope I can improve everything - move quicker, think quicker, but overall, we'll see on the ice how I do."

Although Marchenko didn't want to evaluate his own performance during the World Cup, Blashill was pleased.

"I thought he played pretty well throughout it," Blashill said. "I thought it was a great evaluation for us to see him against some of the best players in the world. Certainly, when they played Canada every line was a top line in the NHL, so I thought it was a good evaluation for us to see if his skill set can match up against those guys' skill set. And I thought overall he did a good job. We saw some things we want him to continue to work on and we made some clips out of those games that Doug Houda will go over with him. It was a good start to the season for him."

Marchenko, 24, had two goals and nine assists in 66 games last season.

He's looking to take another step forward this season.

"I hope I can improve my role on the team, maybe play bigger minutes so try to help team win as much games as we can," Marchenko said. "All defense, offense, transition the puck quick, don't make turnovers at all. Overall, playing better than I was."

For Marchenko, Blashill said the next level for him would likely just be doing what he does best on a consistent basis.

"When he manages his game well, when he doesn't try to do too much, when he makes the plays that are available to him, if there's a pass in the middle of the ice available, make it, but don't force it," Blashill said. "When he does that, I think he'a a real good player and I think he can always get better with his feet and his footwork, little details, stick on puck are things that can always help him get better but I would just say it's continue to play within himself and continue to realize what he's good at."

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