There's a reason that Frans Nielsen has been considered one of the most underrated players in the league.
But he hasn't escaped notice entirely and on Tuesday Nielsen was named to his first All-Star Game.
"It's going to be fun," Nielsen told reporters in Chicago. "For sure, it's something I'm very proud of, I'm really excited to be a part, so it's an honor."
Nielsen is currently third on the team in scoring with 22 points.
Although Nielsen is 32 and the All-Star format is 3-on-3, Wings coach Jeff Blashill isn't worried.
"First of all, congrats to him," Blashill said to reporters in Chicago. "He's been a real good signing for us and a real good player for us. I think with him, he's such a good skater, he's a fluid skater, three-on-three is not real taxing. I think it's more mental breaks at this point than it is physical breaks and he's such a driven person that I don't worry about him mentally. I think he'll be absolutely fine. It's in L.A., so it'll be a nice getaway, too."
Nielsen's teammates were happy for him.
"He's just a consummate professional on and off the ice, does things right each and every day," Justin Abdelkader told reporters in Chicago. "Can play any type of role you need out of him, whether it's a defensive role, offensively he produces, penalty kill, power play. He's been a great addition for us this year and it's a big honor for him."
Thomas Vanek, who has been on Nielsen's line for a while and also played with him with the New York Islanders, said the honor is well-deserved.
"I think he'll represent the Red Wings in a good way and I'm real happy for him," Vanek said to reporters in Chicago. "First of all, he's a great guy off the ice, so it's easy to like him, but on the ice it's the way he thinks the game. He thinks at a high level and again I think the success has shown here."
Nielsen said he's not worried about getting some rest.
"For sure, I think everyone is feeling it right now, and the schedule's been tough, but especially being my first one, it's something I'm really excited about," Nielsen said. "It was, for sure, more entertaining watching it last year than other years. It seems like guys were competing a little bit more, so I'm sure it's going to be hard playing 20 minutes of 3-on-3. But it's going to be fun."
ABDELKADER, GREEN BACK: Blashill confirmed that Abdelkader and defenseman Mike Green are both available for the Blackhawks game.
"Both are real good players in the league," Blashill said. "Green got off to an excellent start, been one of the better defensemen in the league, I think, until he got hurt. He's been fighting kind of this nagging injury, so it's been a chance got him to get that healed up a little bit, but it's a real positive for us. We worry about the 20 guys we have available but when those 20 guys include two real good players in Abby and Green that gives you a chance to be a better hockey team. Now, you got to go out and execute at a high level. Just having guys back doesn't mean you're going to be better. you got to go out and execute for sure, but both guys brings elements. Greener, great puck-moving D. Abby's a real element on our hockey team with the size and the skill-set he has, getting to the hard areas of the net, something we got to continue to do a good job of."
Abdelkader said he was looking forward to returning but knew it would be a process to get back to where he was before the knee injury.
"Keep the shifts short probably, I would say," Abdelkader said. "Just try to keep it simple, don't try to do too much. Try to obviously still play my game but going to have to keep the shifts somewhat short. You're really excited. I think the first games back from an injury, sometimes you're running off a lot of adrenalin, sometimes it's a few games after that you really try to get your legs underneath you. Just really looking forward to tonight. Should be a great atmosphere and should be fun."
Green said the first period is usually the toughest.
"Once you can kind of get your timing back and try to slow the game down for yourself and make good plays, that usually takes about a period to get going," Green said. "Hopefully it's quicker than that."
CHICAGO RIVALRY: The only downside to the Wings moving to the Eastern Conference is losing the rivalry with the Chicago Blackhawks.
"It's a tough building, a fun building to play in," Henrik Zetterberg said. "We used to play there a lot. I think this stretch of games with Kings, LA and San Jose, those are the teams when I came into the league you played a lot. Chicago and Dallas as well. It's a fun stretch. It's teams you don't see that often anymore. I think we play good against them."
Abdelkader said he loves playing in the United Center. "I think the fans really miss it too," Abdelkader said. "It is probably the unfortunate part but we also live in different time zones so I guess it makes sense, too. But it's always fun when we play these guys. Obviously they've been really good for a long time now."