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Notes: Ericsson likely to play against Panthers

Frk has very special day off this past Tuesday

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

SUNRISE, Fla. -- It appears that the Red Wings will get another veteran defenseman back for Saturday night's game in Florida.

Jonathan Ericsson has not played this season due to an upper-body injury but is likely to draw into the lineup against the Panthers.

"We're hoping that he's ready to play," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "We'll see how he is. He's going to do a little extra battling after practice. As long as all goes well than he would go in."

Ericsson has been practicing with the team for some time now so his conditioning is still there but it will be an adjustment.

"Everything is not going to be 100 percent right away, I can't expect that," Ericsson said. "It's hard to practice conditioning for game situations. It's always different. I can skate however much, then you come out in the game and you're still exhausted after the first shift. It's a totally different thing. But I've prepared myself and they prepared (me) as good as they could."

Blashill said sometimes people underestimate the positive impact a 6-foot-4, 220-pound experienced defenseman can have.

"I think sometimes in people's absence, you appreciate them more. You realize the real positives they do when they're not there," Blashill said. "(Trevor) Daley coming back was a big plus, I think Johnny coming back, he's a big man who knows how to play against real good players and is a good penalty killer. He makes mistakes like everybody else but he does lots of good things that, at times, haven't been appreciated enough. I think the size factor hasn't been appreciated enough. If he can get back and ready to roll tomorrow, it would be good to have him to be able to play at times against (Florida's Aleksander) Barkov."

Once they determine Ericsson is ready to go, the Wings will have a roster move to make.

ABDELKADER BACK ON PP: The Red Wings have been solid on the penalty kill, currently ranking seventh in the NHL at 82.1 percent.

But the power play is still not clicking enough. The Wings are 15th in the league at 22.7 percent.

So during Friday's practice at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., Abdelkader was on the unit with Tyler Bertuzzi, Dylan Larkin, Gustav Nyquist and Niklas Kronwall.

"Abby's been a good power play guy," Blashill said. "I thought the little bit he was on - Bert had the penalty last night and he went on it last night and did a good job with poise, he's a good net-front guy, he's been good around the net."

The other power-play unit consisted of Thomas Vanek, Frans Nielsen, Andreas Athanasiou, Michael Rasmussen and Dennis Cholowski.

"I think we just got to get a shot mentality and continue to make it harder around their net and on their goalie and just even out our chances," Abdelkader said.

RASMUSSEN'S RETURN: After sitting out the game in Montreal, Rasmussen returned to the lineup against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"I thought Ras played better last night than he had previous," Blashill said. "I thought it was a much better game against a real good team. My plan is to keep him in the lineup and play him again tomorrow night and hopefully he takes another step in the right direction. If at some point he doesn't then we'll go back to the drawing board and try to help him keep getting better."

Rasmussen played 13 shifts for 9:56 and had a blocked shot, finishing even.

"I felt pretty good. I think I improved on a couple of things and made some positive plays," Rasmussen said. "I think I made a couple of good plays on the power play, but there's still some things I have to clean up, so I think overall it was a pretty good game for me. I just have to keep going."

The Red Wings do have the option to play Rasmussen in nine NHL games and then send him back to his junior team without burning a year of his entry-level contract.

Rasmussen has one assist in six games, leaving three more games.

"It's coming up and we're aware of it and it's something that (general manager Ken Holland) and I have talked about and that's why if we need to take a break we'll take a break and try to get him up to speed through some drills in practice if we need to," Blashill said. "But I'm hoping he plays even better tomorrow night and keeps taking steps in the right direction. I like him a lot as a player, I hope he can keep going in the right direction."

CONGRATULATIONS IN ORDER: After the Red Wings returned from Montreal, they had a day off Tuesday and no one had a better day than Martin Frk.

Frk, 25, took his longtime girlfriend, Kennedy Braun, to Cranbrook House and Gardens for a surprise proposal.

Instagram from @frky91: I could not wait for this day to come and it finally came! I'm very excited to spend rest of my life with my best friend and my love ❤ I love you Kennedy 😘

"Yeah, she didn't know," Frk said, smiling. "I guess she was quite a lot surprised when I look at the pictures when the photographer took the pictures. She was kind of surprised, you can see it on her. It was good. It was a nice day, too, it was sunny so that was perfect.

"It was a special day for me in that moment, a big day, one of the biggest days I ever had."

Frk said it took about two months to get the ring and then a little over a week to set up the photographer and the place for the proposal.

Frk and Braun met in Halifax when he played for the QMJHL's Mooseheads and she was in school there. Braun is originally from Calgary.

Braun's brother is getting married next summer so Frk said they will wait and plan their wedding for after that one.

"We're not in a rush right now. A lot of time," Frk said. "We have two dogs, we are not thinking about kids right now since we have two dogs. Right now we are just going to enjoy this part."

BIG GAME: The Red Wings are not holding a morning skate Saturday, which is a good thing for Dylan Larkin, Luke Glendening and Justin Abdelkader.

All three will likely be watching as the Michigan football team takes on Michigan State in East Lansing.

Last year, in a surprising twist, Glendening, who went to Michigan, picked the Spartans to win, which they did.

This year?

"Michigan, I've got Michigan this year," Glendening said. "Just think it's their time, they've struggled long enough in these games, it's time to go."

Larkin, another Michigan alum, was taken aback to hear that Glendening picked MSU the previous year.

"He picked MSU last year?" Larkin asked. "I do think Michigan is going to win, but I don't know what the score is going to be. Coming off a big win, a solid win at Wisconsin. I like that it's a road game, a little pressure off. We'll be going in there fired up."

Naturally, proud Spartans alum Abdelkader had a different take on the rivalry game.

"I say Michigan State wins by a touchdown," Abdelkader said. "I think we're at home and that's always an added weapon in a rivalry game like that. They come off a big win and I think they'll carry the confidence over."

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