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Notes: Fabbri helping make second line more dangerous for Wings

Detroit goaltenders pursuing excellence; Helm celebrates a big milestone

by Dana Wakiji and Arthur J. Regner @Dwakiji and @ArthurJRegner / DetroitRedWings.com

DETROIT -- Robby Fabbri had an impressive debut for the Detroit Red Wings -- two power-play goals in a 4-2 victory over the Boston Bruins on Nov. 8 -- and he continues to make an impact.

The Wings sent defensive-minded center Jacob de la Rose to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Fabbri on Nov. 6 after their game in New York.

Fabbri is just 23 but because of two injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, other St. Louis players had moved ahead of him.

Detroit offered an opportunity to play top-six minutes and on the power play.

"I've felt good about where I've been physically and mentally," Fabbri said after Monday's practice at the BELFOR Training Center. "It was just about getting that opportunity, getting the chance to show that I'm back to where I was before the injuries. I'm just thankful I got that here."

In just five games, Fabbri has six points (2-4-6) and has made the second line with Valtteri Filppula and Andreas Athanasiou more dangerous.

"You can see it's definitely been good since he's been here," Athanasiou said. "Just playing with him, it's been getting better every game, every shift. He's obviously a highly skilled forward, he knows how to make plays, so I think he suits perfectly with Fil and me. I think it's just got to keep getting better. I think we're doing that. Once you have more lines going, it's good. I think these last few games, all four have been going. If we keep playing like that, we're a pretty good team."

While Fabbri's connection with former Guelph Storm teammate Tyler Bertuzzi came quickly on the power play, it's a little bit of a process to learn new linemates.

"With any guys, you got to learn how each other play," Fabbri said. "Once you get a few games in together, you get predictable to each other. We got a lot of speed on that line. Val is smart, he's always in the right spot, making the right plays. It allows me and Double-A to use our speed, use our skill. We're really finding a groove here."

Although a smaller forward at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, Fabbri has shown off his many skills in a short time with Detroit.

"He's a highly skilled forward, has the ability to score goals, make plays," Athanasiou said. "He's got a good combination of skill and he works really hard out there, he battles hard. For a small guy, he's not afraid to throw his body. He gets in on that forecheck really good and plays the body well. When he gets the puck on his stick, he makes good plays. He's been a lot of fun to play with. I look forward to how much better we can get."

Fabbri has also enjoyed playing with the speedy Athanasiou, who has four goals in the last five games alongside Fabbri.

"He's a guy that will back the defensemen off, so getting him that puck in open ice to push the D back, if he's not beating them wide, he's going to pull up and there's a lot of space for Val and myself coming into the zone," Fabbri said. "We like to utilize speed a lot, and he's done a great job of that in the games I've been here."

The more the second line scores, the less pressure there is on the top line of Bertuzzi-Dylan Larkin-Anthony Mantha.

"It's huge," Larkin said. "I think you look at how when you have two lines that can score, three lines that can score and you get a chip-in from the fourth line, it helps a lot because it takes tough matchups off your top two lines. You can just roll lines and play and you're going to get timely scoring from everyone. Everyone chips in and it's more fun that way. Guys are getting involved on the scoresheet and you need in a long season and you need that in a long game. We've gotten that the past five games, I think."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Back home. 🙌Ottawa in town tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/XoSZ7nqKfm

RED WINGS GOALIES PURSUE EXCELLENCE: It is something the Red Wings are all aware of: Their goal differential of minus-31 is the worst in the NHL.

Though there are several factors that contribute to this alarming stat, Detroit's goaltenders realize they must raise their level of play.

The Red Wings' goaltending also ranks last in the league, with Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Bernier combining for a 3.66 goals-against average and an .882 save percentage.

"I have to be better, try and make every save you're supposed to make and then mix in one or two you're not supposed to make just to give these guys confidence, give them a chance to win every single night," Howard said.

Howard (2-8-1) has had a difficult year.

In 11 games, his goals-against average is 3.86 with a save percentage of .884.

Before he received the nod in net last Saturday in San Jose, Howard had sat out four straight games as Blashill decided to go with the hot hand in Bernier.

"He's played good," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said of Bernier. "When you're a smaller goalie, especially you have to rely on reading the play. The more you play, probably the more comfortable you are in those reads. I think there's probably a correlation for him for the amount he plays consecutively or consistently, I should say, and how his game's been. I think it's a good thing for him.

"He's worked real hard. The one thing about Bernie and Howie, they both work hard regardless of how the outcomes are. They go out and they get better every day so hopefully they can both give us real good goaltending."

When asked what had been Howard's ongoing troubles this season, Blashill, a former collegiate goalie at Ferris State, insisted it's only a temporary glitch in Howard's play.      

"It's hard for me to pinpoint one thing. I would just say I think it's a short-term thing, it's not like it's been 100 games. Probably 10 games or whatever, it just didn't go as well -- really for either guy for a stretch there as they would have liked and as we would have liked," Blashill said. "Some of that's on the team as a whole, some of it's on them to play a little bit better but I think they are. I know the only answer is to work and I know both of them work."

Against the Sharks, Howard had an uneven game, but did come up with huge back-to-back saves on Sharks captain Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau late in the third period to keep the score knotted at 3-3.

Detroit would lose, 4-3, in a shootout and despite Howard making several key saves, the loss left him questioning himself.

"Even though you lose in the skills comp in the shootout, you're still wondering in your mind what more you could have done," Howard said. "The second goal (versus the Sharks) comes into my mind on that, trying to get a glove on that, but other than that, it's just about going out there and battling."

He's been down this road before with his game and to his credit, Howard reinvented himself a few years ago, so he's focused on becoming better and giving the Red Wings a stalwart combination in net, especially since the Wings have elevated their play over the last 10 days or so.

"Going out to the West Coast and getting four out of six points, it could have been six out of six points, we just have to continue the strong play and hopefully the points keep coming for us," Howard said.

With six of their next nine games at Little Caesars Arena, it's clear if Detroit's goalies build off their recent improved play, the most important position on the ice could be the catalyst for the Wings to catapult into playoff contention.

HRONEK A POSSIBILITY: Defenseman Filip Hronek, injured last Tuesday in Anaheim, has missed the last two games but practiced Monday.

"I'm hoping," Blashill said. "He was able to get through the whole practice and I told him I really want him to practice to have the opportunity to play. I just didn't think he could sit out another day and expect to go in there. Now I gotta feel confident that he can go out there and skate at full speed. We'll see."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Coach Blashill post practice. #RedWings pic.twitter.com/gaOBbTC2wO

HELM'S MILESTONE: When Darren Helm skated against the Los Angeles Kings Thursday night, it marked a significant milestone -- 650 NHL games.

It's impressive for any player but especially someone chosen in the fifth round, 132nd overall, in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.

"It means a lot," Helm said. "I'm awfully blessed and lucky to have had this opportunity to play as many games as I have. Hopefully there's a few more milestones yet to come."

Of all the players from the 2005 draft, only 19 have played more games than Helm, including teammate Justin Abdelkader, who has played in 706.

Playing for the same team his entire career has made the milestone even more meaningful for Helm.

"I think it does mean a little bit more," Helm said. "For me, it's pretty nice that it's all been with Detroit. I definitely owe a lot to this organization, giving me this opportunity to play here for as long as I have and hopefully to continue to play here for a little longer."

Although he has just four goals and one assist in 22 games, Helm remains the team's plus-minus leader at plus-5.

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