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By the Numbers: Frans Nielsen

Veteran center provides leadership as offensive numbers dip

by Arthur J. Regner @ArthurJRegner / DetroitRedWings.com

By the Numbers will highlight the Red Wings' on-ice accomplishments in the 2018-19 season. Each week during the offseason, By the Numbers will profile a different player on the team, focusing on his statistical highs. This week we focus on center Frans Nielsen.

When the Red Wings announced they were going to go with four alternate captains last season, it came as no surprise Frans Nielsen was one of the Wings selected to wear a letter.

Nielsen is a stabilizing force within the Detroit dressing room with his cool demeanor and complete candor when addressing his own and the team's on-ice troubles.

His honesty coupled with his encouraging nature is why, to a man, the Red Wings consider Nielsen not only a leader but an integral part of Detroit's overall success.

Signed as a free agent by the Wings on July 1, 2016, Detroit was seeking to solidify the center position after Pavel Datsyuk opted to return home to Russia with a year remaining on his deal.

Certainly, there were no pie-in-sky expectations that Nielsen would duplicate the offensive artistry of Datsyuk, but the native of Denmark had shown to be an extremely reliable two-way center during his 10 years with the New York Islanders.

In 606 games with the Isles, Nielsen had 349 total points (119-230-349), was plus-4, had only 112 minutes in penalties, with an ice time average of 16:55 per game.

Maybe not Datsyukian, but solid enough to fill a void at the Red Wings depth-challenged center position.

There is a common trait Nielsen does share with Datsyuk. They are two of the NHL's deadliest marksmen in the shootout.

Datsyuk ranks eighth all-time in shootout goals with 40, while Nielsen has scored the most shootout goals in NHL history with 49.

But Nielsen would be the first to admit since his arrival in Detroit, he has not been the player anyone expected.

During his first year with the Wings, he acknowledged the transition of living in Detroit compared to New York took much longer than he originally thought.

After a few months of finding his bearings, he settled in and finished his first season in Detroit with his best numbers thus far with the Red Wings.

In 79 games, he registered 41 points (17-24-41) was a career-worst minus-19 with an ice time average of 17:09 per game. He also had his best face-off winning percentage of his career with a 53.8 percent success rate in the circle.

Since then, Nielsen has struggled to find a consistent game offensively.

Over the last two seasons in Detroit, he has experienced long goal-scoring droughts. Last season he didn't score his first goal until the Wings' 26th game of the season.

It was actually Nielsen's 22nd game of the year because he missed four games from Oct. 30-Nov. 6 with a concussion.

As he enters the fourth year of his six-year, $31.5 million contract, Nielsen is at the proverbial crossroads. He's a solid third-line center, but he needs to find an offense spark on the retooling Red Wings.

If he cannot find more consistency offensively, the Wings will be forced to consider all their options moving forward with the affable Dane.

It's a position the Wings would rather not find themselves in, because Nielsen is the walking definition of a pro's pro.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: New season. New numbers. pic.twitter.com/GRWeGS1FpH

72 - In his third full season in Detroit, Nielsen played in 72 games, which ranked seventh overall on the team. He played 79 games in each of his first two seasons with the Wings. Defenseman Niklas Kronwall led the Red Wings in games played last season with 79.

10 - He notched 10 total goals last season, his lowest single-season total in Detroit and the third lowest total in his 11 full NHL seasons. Nielsen's 10 goals put him in a seventh-place tie for most goals on the Wings with Luke Glendening. Dylan Larkin was the Red Wings' goal scoring leader with 32.

25 - Despite his goal scoring woes, Nielsen doled out 25 assists, the fourth highest on the team and his most single-season total with the Wings. Larkin also was Detroit's assist leader with 41.

35 - Nielsen's 35 points placed him seventh overall on the Red Wings. It was also the second highest point total with the team. Larkin's 73 points was tops on the club.

4 - Though goals were hard to come by for Nielsen, he did pot four game-winning goals, which placed him in a four-way tie for most on the Red Wings with Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Bertuzzi.

3 - Against the powerful Tampa Bay Lightning, Nielsen registered his second career hat trick on Dec. 4 at Little Caesars Arena. In 17:11 of ice time, his three goals were scored on four shots and he was plus-2 in the Wings' 6-5 loss. His efforts earned him first star of the game honors

-7 - After being plus-1 the previous season, Nielsen was minus-7 last year.

100 - On Jan. 18 in Calgary, Nielsen notched his 100th career point with the Red Wings when he drew the second assist on Mike Green's goal at 4:16 of the third period in Detroit's 6-4 loss to the Flames. Thomas Vanek picked up the primary assist.

200 - Nielsen reached another Red Wings milestone on Jan. 11 when he played his 200th game with Detroit against the Winnipeg Jets in Winnipeg. In Detroit's 4-2 loss, he had an assist on Dennis Cholowski's power-play goal at of 6:50 of the third period. In 230 games with Detroit, Nielsen has 109 points (43-66-109) is minus-25, has been assessed 46 penalty minutes with an average ice time of 16:33 per game. His face-off percentage is 49.9 percent and he has notched seven game-winning goals.

800- In a road game against the Dallas Stars on December 29, Nielsen played in his 800th career NHL game. He assisted on Detroit's lone goal in a 5-1 loss, scored by Larkin on the power play at 3:52 of the third period. Gustav Nyquist also assisted on the goal. Nielsen has played a total of 836 games in the NHL. He has 458 points (162-296-458), is minus-21 with 158 career penalty minutes. He has 20 game-winning goals with a career ice time average of 16:49 and face-off percentage of 48.6 percent.

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