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Notes: Nielsen, Kronwall out, but Smith returns

Tomas Jurco gets another opportunity, looks to make the most of limited opportunity

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

Frans Nielsen will miss Saturday night's game in Nashville.

Nielsen left Friday night's home game against the New York Islanders after the second period because of an upper-body injury.

Wings coach Jeff Blashill said after the game that Nielsen would test the injury during the morning skate.

But reported only Brendan Smith, Nick Jensen, Ryan Sproul, Tomas Jurco, Steve Ott and Jared Coreau participated in the optional morning skate in Nashville.

"The injury last night obviously limited him in the third and that made for some harder minutes for some guys," Blashill told "Like we've done all year, I feel badly for Frans but I'm not worried about the guys we don't have. I worry about the guys we do have. So we're going to have 20 guys good enough to win a hockey game tonight. We've got to go out and win."

Blashill said Jurco would return to the lineup and Nielsen remains day-to-day.

After missing the beginning of the season due to offseason back surgery, Jurco has been a healthy scratch most nights.

In 13 games, Jurco has not recorded a point and is minus-6.

"He's frustrated for sure," Blashill said. "He wants to be a full-time player and he believes he's good enough to be a full-time player. I think with lots of opportunity, he can be a full-time player. The thing that we have here is we've got lots of good players. He's got to find a way to separate himself from the other guys. How do you do that? You go out and play great hockey. Sometimes it's in limited minutes and it's not an easy thing to do. It's something that he's had to get used to is in those limited minutes, find a way to separate yourself. Certainly not an easy situation he's in. I think he's a good NHL player, I think when he goes in, he usually does a pretty good job. He's got to find a way to be great tonight."

Blashill understands that Jurco is in a difficult situation, trying to establish himself in limited opportunities.

"It is hard when you don't play," Jurco told "I'm not going to lie. When I played every game I didn't feel any pressure and I just played and I had fun. But then when you don't play for three weeks, you play a couple games and then you don't play, you play. You're not used to it, you're into the game that much. I wouldn't say stressed out but it's not like you play. All I gotta do is, like I said, just play hockey. Just be positive and play hockey."

Blashill said either Darren Helm or Riley Sheahan would take Nielsen's spot as the second-line center.

Coreau indicated that Petr Mrazek, who earned the 5-4 win Friday, would start again.

SMITH IN: Defenseman Brendan Smith returns to the lineup against the Predators.

Smith has missed the last 13 games with a sprained knee.

"Brendan, when he's playing his best hockey, is a real good player," Blashill said. "He's a real good defenseman in the league when he's playing his best hockey. The biggest thing for him is making sure he manages his game, that he manages the puck well, that he manages his positioning well so he's not giving up opportunities. But he's physical, he's a skater. He adds skating to our D corps. And he's a guy who wants to shoot the puck and join the play. So I think he can do lots of good things for us."

Instead of having a healthy defenseman sit, Blashill said Niklas Kronwall would miss the game due to a lower-body injury.

Like Nielsen, Kronwall is day-to-day.

Blashill said Steve Ott, who has been out with a shoulder injury, is getting closer.

MARCHENKO CLAIMED: The Wings placed defenseman Alexey Marchenko on waivers Friday to make roster room for Smith's return and the Toronto Maple Leafs claimed him Saturday.

"Alexey's a good defenseman, Alexey can play in the NHL," Blashill said. "First of all, I want to thank him. He's worked for me for a number of years, helped us to lots of victories, including this year and last year, but certainly a lot in GR. He's a great person. We've got a number of good defensemen so we had to make a business decision but I certainly wish him a ton of luck. Not against us though."

Marchenko will be reunited with former Wings coach Mike Babcock.

The Wings face the Leafs two more times, March 7 at Toronto and April 1 at Joe Louis Arena.

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