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Notes: Nielsen: 'We got to stop the bleeding'

Dylan Larkin may center a line with Thomas Vanek and Gustav Nyquist in Darren Helm's absence

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT - Frans Nielsen is mostly a quiet, hard-working player so when he speaks, his words carry some weight.

When Nielsen arrived at Joe Louis Arena for Tuesdays practice, he and all the rest of his teammates saw the standings board with the Red Wings sitting in last place in the Atlantic Division.

"We got to realize where we put ourselves," Nielsen said. "The good thing is it's still early but it has to stop now, we got to stop the bleeding. We know we can put a streak together, we've done it before this year. There's definitely some stuff we can lean on there but we dug ourselves a hole, we got to realize we got to start playing here soon or it's going to be too late. You can say everyone goes through ups and downs but it's just been too long for us now, we can't afford one of those anymore during the year, so pretty much from now on and to the end we got to be solid."

The Wings won six games in a row from Oct. 17-27.

The Buffalo Sabres beat the Calgary Flames Monday night, 4-2, to leapfrog the Wings.

Ironically, the Sabres are the Wings' next opponent Wednesday in Buffalo.

That is what Wings coach Jeff Blashill is thinking about, not about the current standings.

"What I look at is trying to win a game in Buffalo and I know that sounds simplistic or coach-speak but it's not," Blashill said. "I believe in a narrowed focus, I believe that when you're up at the top of the standings, I believe in that when you're not at the top of the standings. My focus is trying to win a hockey game in Buffalo and our focus the last two days has been trying to get better and then let's go win a game in Buffalo."

Nielsen said if the Wings could figure out what went wrong since the winning streak, aside from injuries, they would have changed it.

But Nielsen said one thing that has been lacking is the team's consistency for an entire 60 minutes.

"We got to start outworking teams more," Nielsen said. "At times we've been simply too easy to play against. It's a tough league, there's no easy games. You have to show up for 60 minutes or you're going to lose in this league. Hopefully we're learning from this and we get a few bounces now and we can build some confidence and get rolling again."

Dylan Larkin said the visual of the standings board was sobering.

"I think the guys are sick of the way things are going and they want to make a change," Larkin said. "It starts with looking in the mirror and seeing what you have to do to help the team."

Nielsen said how the team responds now will be important.

"This is what shows what this team is made of," Nielsen said. "We can see what players are going to step up now and get us out of this and it's good to see for management, coaches, everyone, to see who's going to step up and get us out of this."

LARKIN BACK AT CENTER: In Tuesday's practice, Blashill had Larkin centering a line with Thomas Vanek and Gustav Nyquist.

Vanek and Nyquist had success at the start of the season when Darren Helm was their center but Helm is now out with a dislocated shoulder.

Larkin played the first four games of the season before moving to wing.

"I didn't feel comfortable until the fourth game, I guess, and they switched it up," Larkin said. "It's hard, it's a battle every face-off. It's not easy playing that position. You have to be able to move your feet, take offensive chances and be quick in your own zone."

Blashill said Larkin was fine at center, he was just trying to give him a spark by returning him to wing.

"Obviously I thought Nyquist and Vanek had real good chemistry and I thought Helmer provided lots of energy on that line," Blashill said. "Helmer and Larkin, they're different players but potentially it could result in that. We'll see if we go with it. I also think, as I said earlier, we're not going to make any long-term decisions one way or the other, we played Larks on the wing for a while, he's done a good job, maybe we'll try him at center for a bit."

Vanek returned Sunday after missing 11 games with a hip injury.

"I got to worry about my own game right now," Vanek said. "I think last game wasn't very good for myself to get back into it. Again, the first one's always tough once you come back. So I put that behind me and be better. But obviously being back with Nyquie, I think will be good for me. And Larks, having good speed down the middle is going to open things up hopefully for the two of us."

HOWARD IN, MAINTENANCE GUYS SKATE: Goaltender Jimmy Howard confirmed he is starting Wednesday in Buffalo.

Nielsen, Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall and Mike Green, who took maintenance days Monday, all skated Tuesday and are expected to play Wednesday.

JURCO CONDITIONING: Tomas Jurco has been skating with the team for a while now and needs to play games.

So Jurco said he will fly to Milwaukee today to play with the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins Wednesday night and return home with the Griffins and play Friday at home against the Lake Erie Monsters.

"Very excited, it's been awhile, but I've been working really hard to be ready," Jurco said. "I think I'm going to feel good, but still very, very excited."

Jurco had offseason back surgery.

"My back has been feeling really good," Jurco said. "It's way better than before surgery. I'm really excited about it. I can't wait to play."

Blashill said Jurco needs the kind of work he'll get on this conditioning stint that he can't get in Detroit.

"The one problem you have when you're here is if you're not on the inside of the lineup, you're the extra guy in practice and it's hard to get those reps," Blashill said. "Playing for Grand Rapids would allow him to get a little bit more game situation stuff because it's hard to replicate that in practice. First, we don't practice lots. Second of all, if you're the extra, it's hard to replicate that so that would give him an opportunity to get some of those real game reps in."

The Wings will see how Jurco's conditioning stint goes before deciding the next step.

"The one thing about Jurco that I think gets probably missed is he's probably that case that came up real early, he came up as early as anybody had outside of Larkin," Blashill said. "You could make a case that potentially he would have been better served with more time, I know everybody wants everybody to rush up here. You got to remember when he was playing in the league, when he left me when I was down there, I think he was in the top five or 10 in scoring as a young kid. He was a huge impact player in the Calder Cup run.

"When he's been sent down on conditioning stints, he's dominated the league. He's got lots of ability. I think he's at a body weight that he prefers. I think he maybe tried to get too big and I think he's thinned and got to a body weight that he prefers, so he's got a really good skill set that we think can help us. So when he gets the opportunity, he'll have to prove it."

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