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No Miller time

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
It looked innocent enough, but this hit by Ducks defenseman Shea Theodore injured Drew Miller earlier this month. (Photo by Dan Mannes/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT -- The news on Niklas Kronwall wasn't good but it's far worse for Drew Miller.

After missing 14 games with a broken jaw suffered against the Arizona Coyotes Dec. 3, Miller returned Jan. 7 in San Jose.

The comeback lasted less than two games as Miller was hurt in the third period against the Anaheim Ducks Jan. 10 on a hit by Shea Theodore.

On Tuesday, Wings coach Jeff Blashill announced that Miller had to have left ACL reconstruction in addition to meniscus repair and would be out 4-6 months.

"We weren't sure initially what it was going to be," Blashill said. "As the evaluations went, he had that done I believe on Friday of last week. We can do the math and see where that's at. I don't want to preclude anything, I don't know. I guess it depends on our success and on his healing, but he's 4-6 months."

It's a blow to the penalty kill, which is currently 20th in the league at 79.6 percent.

"He's an elite penalty killer, there's no question," Blashill said. "That doesn't mean that our penalty kill can't do a great job. We've got guys, we've been using (Justin Abdelkader) more, we've been starting to use Dylan Larkin more, (Tomas) Jurco at different times has had reps on the PK in practice. We're going to have to find a mix of guys that can get it done. But it's up to us. One guy can't kill your team, one guy can't kill one of your specialty teams. You've got to be on that as an organization and I think we've got guys to do it, now we've got to execute and do it."

Since Miller went out, Larkin has gotten more time on the penalty kill.

"I did it growing up, in junior, a little bit last year in GR (Grand Rapids) and at the world championships," Larkin said. "I'm used to it, just have to have good attention to detail and be willing to get in lanes and start helping out on the PK. It's exciting to get some more minutes."

What's not exciting is the loss of Miller, on and off the ice.

"It's tough to see that," Larkin said. "He's such a nice guy and such a hard worker, so anytime you see that, just getting back from a bad hit and then a fluky thing, it's tough for him to be out."

MARCHENKO, SMITH GET MORE OPPORTUNITY: With Kronwall out for 2-4 weeks after arthroscopic knee surgery, Marchenko will get another opportunity to play.

"Marchy knew he was going to come in," Blashill said. "This is something we had talked about. I think everybody knows he’s played real well when he’s been in. His job, as I talked about when he came out, his job isn’t to disagree or agree with my decisions, his job is to make sure he’s ready to play when he comes back in. I expect Marchy to be really good tomorrow."

Kronwall has manned the point on the power play so that will open up a spot for either Brendan Smith or Danny DeKeyser.

"Between the two of them, one of them will get the opportunity there," Blashill said. "We taped it here today. We’ll go back and watch and see how Smitty did. Smitty hasn’t had much power play time in the NHL. This could be the opportunity for him. If it is, we believe he has the skill set to execute and just like the rest of the guys he’s going to have to go out and execute."

Smith was looking forward to the possibility if it ends up being him.

"It’s the first time I’ve practiced the power play since Calgary (Oct. 23), so that’s exciting," Smith said. "It was fun to be out there. Once you get out there you got to be ready, got to be prepared. I know I can play it. That’s not what I’m worried about. I just got to get focused. When you get an opportunity like that it’s fun and I always like to play on the power play so if I get a chance it’ll be cool."

LOOKING FOR MORE OFFENSE: The Wings have managed just 11 goals in their last six games, so Blashill has changed the lines up a bit.

The top line of Abdelkader-Henrik Zetterberg-Gustav Nyquist remains intact.

Pavel Datsyuk is centering Tomas Tatar and Dylan Larkin while Riley Sheahan centers Teemu Pulkkinen and Brad Richards.

The fourth line is Luke Glendening centering Jurco and Darren Helm.

"We want to score just a little bit more," Blashill said. "We think we’ve defended well. We’ve scored enough to win a good amount of games here in the last little bit but we’d like to score just a little bit more like everybody else, so we want to try those groupings of lines to see if they work a little bit, to give us that offense without sacrificing much defensively."

Richards said scoring more while maintaining defensive play can be tricky.

"Probably we can do better on special teams and that might help guys getting going a little more 5-on-5 but it’s a tough league to score in right now and you can’t sacrifice what you’re doing on the other side of the puck," Richards said.

Abdelkader agreed that special teams could really make the difference.

"I think that’s the difference last year was we scored more on the power play," Abdelkader said. "I think we were at 25 percent, now we’re at 18, so figure that’s almost a goal every couple of games."

The Wings are ranked 18th on the power play, hitting on 17.7 percent of their chances.

"When you got a man-advantage you got to put points on the board," Smith said. "That’s something what will give us a spark. It’s helped us in the past. There’s puck luck, but you got to create that by getting more shots. I think that’s some of our emphasis, so if I can help spark that that’s huge and I’ll really enjoy it if I get in, but if not, I think we got a lot of guys that can step in and play that position and now having Pulkki back is huge."

Larkin has played a little with Datsyuk before and like everyone, appreciates that opportunity.

"Just having the puck the whole time," Larkin said. "He's so smart, he's going to find you. I like when he's talking and teaching me things and getting to know him a little bit more."

DATSYUK HEATING UP: Datsyuk has either scored or assisted on each of the Wings' last six goals and on seven of the last 10.

"I’ve noticed that," Smith said. "Little difference. I’ve seen his game is getting better but health with him is a huge thing. When he’s healthy he’s dangerous and he’s healthy right now."

Datsyuk has six points in his last three games after collecting 16 in his first 27 games.

Now Datsyuk just needs a hat trick.

When Chicago's Patrick Kane scored one the other night against Toronto, he had 26 two-goal games without scoring the third goal.

That ranked Kane second behind Datsyuk, who has 37 two-goal games without a hat trick, and former Wings defenseman Larry Murphy, who had 28 two-goal games without one.

WEDNESDAY'S GOALTENDER: Blashill said Petr Mrazek would start against the St. Louis Blues.

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