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Notes: Battle drills take prominent role in high-intensity practice

Nielsen does not practice; Wings place Daley on IR, recall McIlrath from Grand Rapids

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT -- The Red Wings held a short, high-intensity practice Tuesday afternoon at the BELFOR Training Center.

Battle drills took a prominent role as the Wings work to break out of a three-game slump in which they have been outscored, 17-4.

"I thought the last couple games we didn't do a good enough job of winning puck battles and at the end of the day, I guess it's two-fold, one, the game comes down to the Ted Lindsay rule, the puck goes in the corner, if you don't come out with it, you're not a good hockey player, and two, we still got a lot of young guys that have to learn certain habits and have to learn how to battle and come up with pucks and stick on puck, so part of it is the development process," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said.

"We wanted to make sure (practice) was hard but not so hard … hard and short and I think that's what we got accomplished."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Coach Blashill following today's practice. #RedWings

The focus is also on making things harder on the other team, especially in the defensive zone.

"It was a tough practice today and I think that's really what defending is," defenseman Alex Biega said. "It's defending hard, it's competing and being hard to play against so the other team doesn't want to go in there in the trenches with you. I think for us, we definitely have enough speed and enough guys that are willing to go into battle, we just have to execute that in a consistent manner."

While the players definitely have to win their one-on-one battles, they also have to find a way to work as a unit on the ice, supporting one another.

"I think that's the way that we have to play," Biega said. "Defensively, as a five-man unit, we gotta find ways to get that puck, be an out for each other and play a fast game and try to get in their O-zone and put pressure on their D as much as possible. Those are the type of games where you play grinding-type games and you win games, 3-2 or 2-1 or 1-0. Certainly that's the way that we're gonna have to win games with this group here. I think with little, small things, details like that, winning a puck battle, being hard on guys, competing hard, those are the type of things where over the course of 60 minutes, that's going to be the difference between winning and losing."

The Wings started the season 3-1, which included a win in Nashville, so they have shown they can play the style that is needed to be successful.

"It seems like we put it together for a couple of games. Then it goes away for awhile, and then it comes back and goes away," goaltender Jimmy Howard said. "We gotta find a way collectively as a unit to stop that. We have to be a team that goes out there and does it collectively together. We can't rely on one sole person or one sole line. Obviously, Bernie (Jonathan Bernier) and I have gotta come up with the saves for the guys and give them a chance to win some games."

Biega said he's been through similar situations a few years ago when he was with the Vancouver Canucks. 

"You have to realize it's a long season and things can turn," Biega said. "I'm sure people use the St. Louis example last year with the Blues, they went through a similar stretch and from what I understand, they were going to blow their team up. But then all of a sudden, they kept everybody and they decided as a group collectively that it's not going to stand and they're going to play the right way and all of a sudden, they got some swagger.

"The league is just so tight nowadays. There's a fine line between winning and losing in this league and if you just have that mindset where you come in every day and you're going to bring your work ethic every single shift and you do that consistently, you're going to win a lot more games than you're going to lose."

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INJURY UPDATE: Center Frans Nielsen, who blocked a shot with his left knee at 5:11 of the third period Monday night, did not skate Tuesday even though he was able to return to the game.

"We think he'll be available but until he gets on the ice and is able to get through a morning skate tomorrow, we won't know for sure," Blashill said. "He blocked a shot and there was no way he was leaving the bench. He really probably shouldn't have finished but he finished the game because that's who he is as a person."

Nielsen has had a rough start to the season, with no points in his first 13 games and missing three games earlier with an injury.

"He's trying, he cares, it's not going his way," Blashill said. "Can he be better? Yes. But it's not from a lack of care, a lack of trying. We haven't found a good combination … I actually thought parts of last night they were good and they created the big shift in the second which started to give us a little bit of momentum, but it hasn't happened yet. With that is probably going to come decreased ice time.

"He hasn't been on the power play, it makes it hard to be productive if you're not doing those things. And within his ice time, he's probably spent a lot of time on the kill and our kill hasn't been very good. So some of the things he takes pride in, it's not happening right now. It's a long year, he's got to find a way to make himself impactful and I believe he will."

Defenseman Mike Green, who missed the last two games due to illness, also did not practice Tuesday.

Neither did defenseman Trevor Daley, who couldn't finish Saturday's game in Florida but took part in Monday's morning skate.

"Neither one will be ready for tomorrow," Blashill said. "Neither one practiced today, which means we don't practice Thursday because of our schedule, so I don't anticipate them being ready to play on Friday."

The Wings recalled defenseman Dylan McIlrath from the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins Tuesday afternoon and placed Daley on injured reserve, retroactive to Nov. 2.

McIlrath played in seven games with the Wings late last season and finished plus-2.

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