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Notes: Comrie gets first Red Wings start against his former team

Abdelkader, Daley participate in optional morning skate and are ready to go; Howard skates

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

WINNIPEG -- It's going to be a special day for Eric Comrie, who will be making his first start for the Red Wings.

The fact that the start is coming against the Winnipeg Jets, the team that originally drafted him in the second round, 59th overall, in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, and will take place at Bell MTS Place, is the icing on the cake.

"Honestly, just looking to have a lot of fun out there," Comrie said after the team's optional morning skate. "It's pretty exciting to play against a former team, a lot of friends on the other side, it's going to be a lot of fun. Hoping to get a win for our team over here.

"I know this building pretty well, I've played a lot of minutes in this building. I've always enjoyed playing in front of the crowd and now it's going to be kind of different, playing against the crowd."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "A lot of friends on the other side, it's going to be a lot of fun, but hoping to get a win for our team over here."Eric Comrie to make his first start with the #RedWings tonight. pic.twitter.com/L55vxeRAyz

Comrie said some of his family members would be coming from Edmonton for the game.

Wings coach Jeff Blashill even broke with his usual noncommittal stance in confirming that Comrie would be in net.

"I generally don't give out our starting goalie, but yeah, he is going to start tonight," Blashill said. "Look forward to seeing him play. He went through a stretch in Arizona where he wasn't really seeing live action, even in practice. He's had a week here of live action, got in last part of the last game, so he'll get the start tonight."

On Saturday at Little Caesars Arena against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Comrie relieved Jonathan Bernier and stopped all four shots he faced in 8:13.

"He works hard, good person," Blashill said of what he's noticed about Comrie. "Those two things for sure. I don't have an unbelievable feel for him as a player yet. I think that comes with getting opportunity, so he'll get one of those tonight. Certainly competes hard in net, doesn't give up on pucks."

Jets coach Paul Maurice, who knows Comrie much better, was unequivocal in his praise of the young netminder.

"I just wish I could be that happy," Maurice said. "This might be the best human - Adam Graves maybe the other one - but this guy might be the nicest guy on the face of the earth. Hardworking, stay out on the ice all day, take 2,000 shots. 'How are you doing, Eric?' 'Great, I had a great day today.' He's just a wonderful, wonderful personality. I'm really happy he's getting a chance to be back in the NHL.

"I wish the best for him after a couple of days from now, I really do. There's a guy we should all be pulling for, he's top-five best guys ever. And if you know him, you know I'm not exaggerating."

The crowd of reporters around Comrie after the morning skate, most of them from Winnipeg, was a good indication of that.

Comrie related his initial thoughts after finding out he was heading to Detroit.

"It's pretty cool, an Original Six team," Comrie said. "First thing I thought was, oh, I don't get my number. I lose my number but that's kind of cool. I mean, it was a lot of fun seeing that it's in the rafters. Terry Sawchuk is probably one of the greatest goalies of all-time. Just putting on the Red Wings jersey is something special and Steve Yzerman calling you is also something that's pretty cool as well."

As for switching to No. 34, it wasn't really much of a choice.

"Honestly, that's the number they offered me and you know what, I kind of liked Miikka Kiprusoff growing up, too, even though I'm an Edmonton guy," Comrie said. "He was a pretty good goalie in Calgary for a while. So that was kind of cool."

The Arizona Coyotes had claimed Comrie on waivers and, in keeping with his upbeat nature, Comrie said he enjoyed his time in the desert.

"It was great," Comrie said. "They're winning a lot of games right now. They have a good team and being around two excellent goaltenders in Darcy Kuemper and Antti Ranta, I think they're top goalies in the league right now. It was great to learn from a great goalie coach in Corey Schwab there as well. They did an awesome job with me and treated me like I was one of the top two goalies on the team. It didn't matter if I was the third guy or backup that day, they treated me the same way."

Comrie said he might go out with some of his buddies from the Jets when they come to Detroit in a couple of days but he wanted to go to dinner with his new teammates Monday night.

But there are no regrets about his time in Winnipeg for Comrie.

"No. I loved every single second I was with Winnipeg," Comrie said. "I loved the guys, I loved the coaches, I loved management. They were awesome from day one. I was really happy to be here every single moment. They made me the player I am today, the person I am today so I'm really thankful for what they've done here. I'm really excited to move forward with a new organization but if anything ever comes back, I'd be happy to go back here but I'm really happy in Detroit right now."

ABDELKADER AND DALEY LOOK TO BE READY: With Andreas Athanasiou not on the trip, it will be easy for Justin Abdelkader to slide right back into the lineup after missing the last 12 games with a hand injury.

"Keep it simple, obviously timing, not going to be there fully," Abdelkader said. "Play within my game. Be hard on the forecheck, try to be physical. Just bring energy. Try to end this together. It's been tough to watch and not be in the room and go through it with the guys. Real excited to be back and hopefully we can get this win out of the way."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "It's been tough to watch and not be in the room and go through it with the guys. I'm really excited to be back."Abdelkader will return to the lineup for the first time since suffering an injury on Nov. 10. pic.twitter.com/Cy5UKvvURC

One area where Abdelkader can certainly contribute is at the net front, where his size can help.

"On (Robby Fabbri's) goal, I thought Bert (Tyler Bertuzzi) did a great job in front," Abdelkader said. "Anytime you can get pucks to the net and make it hard on the goalie, he can be a little slow to react. Either pucks go in or those second, third opportunities can or a goalie can't quite read the play. So we got to make sure we continue to get pucks on net and get traffic and win those battles in front."

Daley has been out the last 16 games with a lower-body injury so he hasn't been able to skate as much as Abdelkader.

"In Trevor's case, he's had a couple years where he's been injured a lot," Blashill said. "I'm hoping he can stay healthy and get back in a groove and play the way he was playing when he first came to us, which was really good hockey. We'll see. It's not going to happen overnight where you get to that same groove, but I think game by game if he can stay healthy, it'll be a real positive for us."

BOWEY ASSIGNED TO GRIFFINS: Defenseman Madison Bowey cleared waivers and was assigned to the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: The Detroit #RedWings today assigned defenseman Madison Bowey to the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins.Details: https://t.co/FV4GGAdYtd pic.twitter.com/8JO1KA7JOY

"At the end of the day, he had gotten into a spot where he was out of the lineup," Blashill said. "I'll let you guys go back and look at the games and decide who should or shouldn't have been in the lineup. In my mind, it had stagnated a little bit. He had some tough games in a row and we took him out of the lineup. If he's going to be out of the lineup, he should play hockey. He's 24 years old. This doesn't need to be the end for him by any means.

"As I said to him, go down and play like you don't belong down there and then people will be pounding on my door to have him come back up. His play will dictate his opportunities. Is there still more there if he makes adjustments in his game? Absolutely. He has to continue to learn how to manage the game, be real efficient and be really good defensively. If he does that down there, he'll get his opportunities back here."

HOWARD IN SKATES: The Wings had three goaltenders on the ice during the optional morning skate.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: 👋 from Winnipeg, MB, where it���s a mild -6 degrees.#RedWings, Jets: 8pm. #LGRW pic.twitter.com/sWIARUVHEd

One was Jimmy Howard, who has missed the last four games with a lower-body injury.

"He's skating," Blashill said. "I don't have a timeline. He's able to go down and do drills. Part of when you have a lower-body injury, you can't do much for a while, so we got to get him back into … not into shape, that's not right … but back into more readiness. As he starts to get better, he'll work into more practices and get closer but I don't have a timeline."

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