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Notes: Defending Pettersson is Detroit's biggest challenge

Nielsen reveals he had a concussion; Wings recall Ehn

by Arthur J. Regner @ArthurJRegner /

DETROIT -- When you look at what Elias Pettersson, the Vancouver Canucks' 19-year-old rookie center, has accomplished in his brief nine-game NHL career, the results are staggering.

The 6-foot-2, 176-pound dynamo leads the Canucks in scoring with nine goals among his 15 points, he's plus-6, has been assessed one minor penalty and averages 17:19 in ice time.

He leads all rookies in goals and points this season despite missing six games with an injury.

Pettersson was named the NHL's Rookie of the month for October and on November 2, he registered a career-high five points versus Colorado to set a Canucks record for most points by a rookie in a regular-season game.

And after Tuesday's morning skate, Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill compared Pettersson to former Detroit superstar Pavel Datsyuk.

"He's in a little different category than a lot of good young players (are)," Blashill said. "Pettersson, to me it's not necessarily a speed game where a lot of the great young players in the league today are all about speed, he's kind of a skinnier version of Pavel, it's a lot of shaking and baking, a lot of deception, a lot of drawing a lot of people towards him moving the puck.

"I've had a blast watching him. I hope I don't have a blast tonight in that sense. He's a really exciting young player to watch and somebody we're going to have to do a really good job of defending him."

A couple of the Swedish Wings are familiar with their young countryman and are impressed with how his attitude and game have translated to the NHL.

"I actually played on the same line with him for a few games before he got hurt in the world championship in Copenhagen," Gustav Nyquist said. "Seems to be doing pretty good in Vancouver, smart player, a lot of skill. He's had a great start.

"Obviously he's had a good resume with the way he's played in Sweden. I didn't see him at all over there but there's still a lot of good players over there … he's played pro before, he's played in Sweden. I know that league well, I know a lot of people play in that league and they're all good two-way players. You learn how to play the right way.

"So, I think maybe what you're seeing is he's got a little head start in terms of knowing how to play in both ends."

Niklas Kronwall believes Pettersson has effectively blocked out his detractors who believe his slight stature could have a negative impact on his game.

"Last year, they were talking about his size and whatever. He just said it doesn't really matter to me. I think he's shown so far that he's doing okay," Kronwall said. "Every time they (Vancouver) play there's some highlights. It's extremely exciting to see the young kids come in nowadays and what they can do with the puck, but of course, being a Swede, seeing what this guy can do, how he moves out there, it's really exciting."

Kronwall was asked the best way to defend against Pettersson. If he had the chance, would he 'Kronwall' the rookie to slow him down?

"Rarely do you see those guys get hit in the first place. A lot times, you want to work as a five-man unit and try to eliminate all the space you can," he answered. "Basically, try to be there before he gets the puck. That way, you try to take away time and space from him. I think that's something that goes for all the great players. He'll be definitely a challenge."

Blashill reiterated what he's been saying about teens being impact players in the NHL when it was suggested that the Wings' Filip Zadina could be next year's Pettersson after a full pro season in the AHL.

"I think it speaks to how hard it is for a young player to make a real impact in the league. It's just the reality of it," Blashill said. "How many guys go from the draft table right to being a really good player on a really good team, how many?

"Not very many at all, but he's proven he looks like he's (Pettersson) going to be an elite player in this league. The important thing is we're focused in our case (with) Zadina, the development path is a little bit different. Most people need time, that's the reality of it, most people need time."

NIELSEN AND ATHANASIOU REMAIN OUT: For the last several practices the Red Wings were hoping to announce Frans Nielsen was cleared to play after suffering an upper-body injury on October 28 against Dallas.

But Nielsen's return is still up in the air.

After Tuesday's morning skate, Nielsen revealed he had a concussion and has not passed all the concussion protocol tests in order to get clearance.

"I was hoping for today, but the testing showed I wasn't quite there. Maybe for Friday," Nielsen said. "It's more my memory lacking a little bit. I don't have any symptoms or anything, but my testing is lacking a little bit. That's it.

"(I'm) feeling good out there on the ice, but this is the protocol I've got to follow. Just one of those things we don't want to take a chance with. I feel I'm as close as I can get right now without being cleared. Hopefully, it's just a matter of days now."

Nielsen told reporters he has had concussions in the past, but he's encouraged they all were mild and not very serious.

"I had some, but I never had any with bad symptoms or I can't remember anything or trouble with anything, so I had some, but not where I couldn't do anything else and just had to lay at home in the dark. I haven't had any of those," he said. "This one, I feel like was a mild one, too, but it's just taking longer to get through those tests than I expected."

Athanasiou (lower body) was also injured in the Dallas game and has recently begun skating. He is optimistic he'll rejoin his teammates in a matter of days.

"I just kind of went into the boards pretty awkwardly and I felt my skate on my left side." Athanasiou said. "When I saw the play, I was surprised it wasn't anything bad, because it looked pretty ugly, but I'm very thankful that it's not as bad as it looked.

"A little sprain. I'm doing a lot better, just taking it day by day. Hopefully, it should be good by Friday. It's been getting better every day. I'm headed in the right direction for sure."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Andreas Athanasiou and Frans Nielsen are aiming for Friday to make their return to the #RedWings lineup. Hear from both 👇

Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson remains out with a lower-body injury he sustained in a weight room mishap after Detroit's 4-3 victory over New Jersey on November 1; he is listed as week-to-week.

Forward Thomas Vanek is out 2-4 weeks with a lower-body injury.

EHN RECALLED: With Nielsen still on the mend, the Wings have recalled Christoffer Ehn from the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Ehn began the season with the Wings and appeared in nine games for Detroit, registering one assist, a plus-2 rating, four penalty minutes and an ice time average of 9:36 per game.

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