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Notes: Abdelkader, Helm and Daley all set to play vs. Sharks

Team will hold moment of silence for fallen Detroit police officer before game

by Dana Wakiji and Art Regner @Dwakiji and @ArthurJRegner /

DETROIT -- The Red Wings are not where they want to be in the standings but at least now they are getting all their players back to try to make a run.

Wings coach Jeff Blashill said he expects Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm and Trevor Daley to play tonight against the San Jose Sharks.

All three are recovering from lower-body injuries.

"Coming off All-Star break, we had some time to get some extra healing and I think we're all anxious definitely to get back." Abdelkader said.

Abdelkader and Helm have each missed six games while Daley has missed the last three.

"It feels like it's been a long time with the two breaks and getting injured after the first, it's been a long time," Helm said. "So obviously excited to get back and just get back on the ice."

Blashill said he would work all three into the game as he did when Luke Glendening returned from his injury before the All-Star break.

"Certainly when Glennie came back, we eased his minutes the first two periods, played a little bit more in the third," Blashill said. "It's easier to play late than it is to play tons of minutes early and lose your legs so we'll work them all in. I think Dales was skating during the All-Star break up in the Sault, I know Abby was here skating. I think the fact that everybody's coming off break makes it a little bit more level playing field, I know San Jose played last night, but makes it a little bit more level playing field when you come off injury."

While Glendening, Abdelkader and Helm were out, the penalty kill struggled, falling to 20th in the league at 79.5 percent.

Glendening got two games under his belt before the break and now he'll get a little more help.

"We'll use both those guys on the penalty kill," Blashill said. "We'll probably divide them up a little bit. At times I've gone four killers and it'd be a lot to ask one of those guys to go back to back to back on those kills. Hopefully we don't have to kill many but if we do, we'll have a good number of killers back."

The Sharks have the league's fourth-best power play at 23.3 percent so the Wings will have a great challenge.

"We definitely take a lot of pride in our PK, especially going up against one of the best," Helm said. "It should be a good test for our killers and should be a good test for my lower-body injury."

Abdelkader said they would watch some video of the San Jose power play before the game to get familiarized with it as they don't play the Sharks as often as they used to when they were in the Western Conference.

"It starts with (Brent) Burns on the point, he really gets the puck through, he has a great shot," Abdelkader said. "(Joe) Pavelski is really good in front tipping pucks. They've always had kind of a shooting mentality on the power play and they're really good at getting those rebound opportunities when they don't score."

The Sharks are without Joe Thornton, who was second on the team in power-play scoring with 18 points, just behind Burns' 20.

"When a guy like that goes out, the guys are all behind him," Helm said. "I feel like what he's done in the past as well, you find ways to step up and play together as a team. I'm sure they've been doing that all year but when a guy like that goes down, it's even more united to do the job they need to do."

The bearded Burns is a unique force of nature at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, with hands as skilled as a forward's.

"He can do it all," Abdelkader said. "He's big, he can skate, he can play physical if he has to; a right-handed shot defenseman you don't see a lot of, so he just has all the attributes to be a top defenseman in the league."

Burns leads the Sharks with 42 points but is a team-worst minus-23.

MRAZEK GETS THE START: Petr Mrazek will make his third start in the last four games but Blashill said it was not because the team is trying to showcase him before the Feb. 26 trade deadline.

"Not for me, not one bit," Blashill said. "Petr's played pretty well lately, he's gotten us points and I got tons of faith in both of them and we're trying to win hockey games. We want to win tonight's game and put ourselves in a better position to be a playoff team."

Blashill said he has noticed an uptick in Mrazek's confidence of late.

"I think when you're more confident as a goalie, the puck sticks to you a little bit more, you play under control, especially him," Blashill said. "He plays under control. I think confidence is a big factor. I think he's worked hard on his game all year, going back to the summer. I think when he hasn't played, he's put himself in position to go out and play and done good work with Jeff Salajko, our goalie coach. Hopefully he can come out here and have a real strong performance for us."

Mrazek is 1-2-0 with a 2.26 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in four career games against the Sharks.

ATHANASIOU ON BREAKAWAYS VS. PENALTY SHOTS: There is nothing more exciting in the NHL than watching a player streaking in on net with a clear-cut breakaway.

And very few players do it better than Wings forward Andreas Athanasiou.

In his brief NHL career, Greece Lightning has compiled an extensive highlight reel of him scoring breakaway goals.

However, Athanasiou's career shootout numbers - 2-of-9 for a 22 percent success rate and being 0-for-1 on his only penalty shot attempt - are not what you would think based on his breakaway prowess.

"They both have their own kind of difficulties to them whether you have pressure (breakaway) or the other one is a straight one-on-one, so I'd say it's a little bit different," Athanasiou said.

When he was asked if a breakaway is more instinctive than a penalty shot/shootout attempt because he has time to think about what move he'll try on the goalie, Athanasiou was skeptical.

"Ah, I don't really know, it's more 50-50 you're going to score or not," he said. "There's a lot of breakaways where I go down and the goalies make a good save. It's the same way with penalty shots where it could happen either (way).

"With me I think there's a good chance I'm going to score, but you never know what could happen - a goalie could make a big save. I feel confident on breakaways and penalty shots. I think they go hand-in-hand."

Like his teammates, Athanasiou is more concerned with the Wings' task at hand. He's aware Detroit needs to pick up its game if it hopes to qualify for the playoffs.

"I think everyone knows what the situation is, there's not that many games left," Athanasiou said. "So it's definitely the time in the season where I think we know we have to bear down or we know what the consequences will be."     

MOMENT OF SILENCE: Before talking about his team, Blashill had an important announcement to make.

"We're having a moment of silence tonight for Officer Doss, who was killed in action with DPD (Detroit Police Department)," Blashill said. "My heart goes out to certainly his family and his father, who's still protecting us and protecting our streets. It's just another example of what these officers do to give us a society of law. Certainly my heartfelt thoughts and my prayers go out to that family."

Doss was responding to a domestic violence call and was shot twice. He died this past Sunday at Detroit Receiving Hospital.

The death has impacted Blashill on a personal level because of his father, who was a Detroit police officer.

"My dad was DPD for 10 years, my uncles were DPD and sheriffs up in Traverse, Grand Traverse County so it's something that's important to me and I don't speak a lot publicly about," Blashill said. "I just think it's important to remember the sacrifices that are being made so that we can live in a city and feel free to enjoy our lives and do what we do as we come downtown every day."

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