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Notes: Ericsson back in for first time since breaking nose

Wings hoping for another stellar Howard performance against Rangers

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

NEW YORK -- The look of the Detroit defense will be slightly different Friday night in New York.

Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said after the team's morning skate that he believes he is in the lineup for the first time since breaking his nose Dec. 15 against the Los Angeles Kings.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Practice this morning.Game tonight. #DETvsNYR | #LGRW

That injury resulted in surgery and an adjustment to a full face shield for protection.

"It's been a frustrating year in many different ways, but I think you learn from every challenge you're being faced here in life, so this has been a few challenging months," Ericsson said. "Just got to learn from it."

Ericsson missed the first 20 games of the season with a few injuries coming out of the preseason and has missed several others as a healthy scratch.

The veteran blueliner is looking to finish the season on a much better note after playing in just nine of the team's 51 games.

"Personally, I want to be healthy, not with any more injuries, try to play a strong defensive game and try to help the team play good defensively," Ericsson said. "That's kind of what I can contribute. Obviously, we all want to find a good feeling in ourselves playing here, obviously our confidence isn't on top but hopefully this break will kind of reset a lot of the players' mentality and focus, so hopefully we'll recharge."

Ericsson was paired with Alex Biega in the morning skate. Patrik Nemeth was with Filip Hronek and Dennis Cholowski was with Trevor Daley, making Madison Bowey a likely healthy scratch.

NEW YORK CITY JIMMY: Goaltender Jimmy Howard has become a fixture in Detroit and has made it his home for the last decade.

But while you can take Howard out of his native New York state, there's a part of him that remains.

That often shows up when Howard faces a New York team, but especially when it's the Rangers as Howard grew up in upstate New York as a fan of Rangers goaltender Mike Richter.

"I've seen him play some unbelievable games here," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "He does pretty well against all the New York teams in general. Every game is its own game. I thought going into the break he was playing good hockey, probably as good as he's played all season, so I'm hoping he can carry that forward."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Jeff Blashill ahead of tonight's #DETvsNYR matchup at MSG.

In 17 career games against the Rangers, Howard is 10-4-3 with a 1.90 goals-against average and .944 save percentage, his best numbers against any team.

On the other side of that is Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who also seems to be on top of his game every time he faces the Wings.

In 19 games against the Wings, Lundqvist is 8-5-6 with a 1.95 goals-against average, .938 save percentage and four shutouts.

According to the Rangers' website, among NHL goaltenders who have made at least 10 appearances against Detroit, Lundqvist's .938 save percentage is the best in league history.

Rangers coach David Quinn said that rookie Igor Shesterkin will play against the Wings in New York and Lundqvist will play Saturday in Detroit.

Shesterkin, 24, will be making his fourth career appearance and first against the Wings.

RELAXED AND READY: Most of the Wings took the opportunity during the All-Star break and bye to head for warmer climes.

"We went to Mexico for four days and got in the sun," Dylan Larkin said. "I enjoyed it. It was good to let the bumps and bruises heal up. Take some time away."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "We have to have the approach that we're building. It may not be coming through now, but it's going to be in the long run. That's the exciting part."Dylan Larkin | #DETvsNYR

Ericsson and his family also went to Mexico.

"My family had a really good time," Ericsson said. "Getting recharged this season, different scenery, warm weather, it was in Mexico, you can never go wrong with that. It was a great time and the focus only on the kids. We've been gone a lot and the kids are getting older, noticing that Dad is gone a lot, so it was nice to spend some quality time with them."

Now that everyone is back, Blashill is hoping that everyone is a little healthier and ready to attack the last 31 games.

"I thought the Christmas break refreshed us," Blashill said. "When you don't win, you get beat down. These breaks, I think that one proved to be good and I'm hoping this one can prove to be good, too."

SUPER BOWL SUNDAY: After the Wings hold practice Sunday at the BELFOR Training Center, many of the players will get together to watch the Super Bowl between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers.

"We're just gonna have dinner and watch the game and be together," Larkin said. "It's good to see two new teams. I like to see Kansas City win it. I like (Patrick) Mahomes. That's who I guess I'll start pulling for."

Ericsson said he also has a rooting interest.

"K.C. Me and Fransie (Frans Nielsen) have them, so hopefully we'll win the battle on the team here," Ericsson said.

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