"They made some changes over there but there's still a lot of guys around," Nielsen said after Monday's morning skate at Little Caesars Arena. "It's always special. Long Island is still a special place for my family. We still go back there every summer and spend a lot of time there. It will always be a special one for me."
For Nielsen, this has been a difficult season, both personally and for the team.
The Wings are trying to fight their way out of a nine-game winless skid (0-7-2) and Nielsen has just one assist in 25 games this season.
"It's been tough on us," Nielsen admitted. "We started out well, played some good, fast hockey like we wanted to, and then for some reason we've been really inconsistent. We showed flashes of what we can do out there but it hasn't been on a nightly basis. So right now we gotta fight back to that working mentality where we play fast, because then we know we can beat any team in this league."
Wings coach Jeff Blashill agreed that earlier in the season, the Wings were doing a better job defensively.
"We got to be a team that defends well. We got to be a team that limits scoring opportunities," Blashill said. "I thought through a large part of the early season we did that 5-on-5. We weren't giving up many scoring chances 5-on-5, our special teams weren't good enough early. The last little bit we've given up too many chances 5-on-5, we've given up too many rush chances.
"When we're a good team, I think we're spending time in the O-zone. I think our weak-side D is getting weak-side puck retrievals, we're able to stay in the O-zone. We're a team that has to score dirty. We haven't scored much, when we do we have to score dirty, we have to score with chaos in front of the net, but we're a pressure team without giving much up when we're at our best."
As a veteran, Nielsen knows that the other players, particularly the younger ones, might look to him to provide leadership in this time of adversity.
"I think you try and talk and you try and make everyone realize how hard it is to win in this league," Nielsen said. "It's not just going out there and going through your motions. You gotta work really hard and do all the little things out there. We just haven't done that on a consistent basis. But like I said, when we do it, we show how good we can be."
Of course, that task will not be easy when facing the Islanders.
Coach Barry Trotz has the Islanders in second place in the Metropolitan Division at 17-5-2 (36 points).
The Islanders have won four of their last five games against the Wings.
"For one, they're really structured it seems like," Nielsen said. "It seems like Barry's been doing a great job with that area. They all know their job out there and their responsibilities. On top of that, they've got a lot of skill, a lot of talent. It's a really tough test for us."
COMRIE IN TOWN: It has been quite the season for goaltender Eric Comrie and it's only the beginning of December.
Originally the Winnipeg Jets' second-round pick, 59th overall, in the 2013 draft, Comrie was claimed on waivers by the Arizona Coyotes.
Against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Jimmy Howard suffered a mid-body injury in the first period on Nov. 27 and was placed on injured reserve Nov. 29.
The following day, general manager Steve Yzerman traded defenseman Vili Saarijarvi to the Coyotes for Comrie.
"Right now, it's just more depth in the goaltending position," Blashill said. "I thought Pick (Calvin Pickard) came in and it was a weird game for him in Philly in that we didn't give much up and when we gave something up it was a big chance, so that's not a really fair assessment of the goalie. Pick's a great pro. They've had some struggles down there as well. What Comrie does is give us more depth at that position."
Comrie has had to be pretty flexible through all the changes.
"It was kind of a weird season, getting picked up off waivers by Arizona and not really playing any games," Comrie said. "Then they sent me down on a conditioning stint and I got to play in four games, which was a lot of help for me.
"I was definitely surprised. I was having a lot of fun in Arizona, just practicing and getting used to being there. It was a good time. When I got the call I was pretty surprised."
In his conditioning stint, Comrie played for the AHL's Tucson Roadrunners, going 4-0 with a 2.75 goals-against average and .900 save percentage.
Comrie participated in the team's morning skate but after tonight, the Wings don't play a game until Saturday at home against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"I'm just going to go out to practice and try to be the best I can and get better every single day I step on the ice," Comrie said.
Comrie, 24, has played in just five NHL games and is 2-3-0 with a 4.21 goals-against average and .870 save percentage.
"I think I'm a positional goalie who tries to get in the way and just make my game as calm as I can," he said.
Although he doesn't know when he might play, Comrie did know a few of the Wings already.
"I knew Dales (Trevor Daley), (Madison) Bowey, a couple of different guys just from playing world juniors and a couple of different tournaments, stuff like that," Comrie said.
For now, Comrie said he's just looking at the trade to Detroit as a new chapter in his young career.
"For sure I'm excited about the opportunity, excited to go out there and hopefully play some games," Comrie said.
INJURY UPDATES: The Red Wings are still without veteran defensemen Danny DeKeyser and Trevor Daley, both dealing with lower-body injuries.
"Nothing really new. DK and Dales are still in the same boat," Blashill said. "We'll just see. It's a healing process with Dales and DK and I don't have any answers except they're in that process. Until they're closer to being ready to come, there's no update."
Forward Justin Abdelkader, out since Nov. 12 with an upper-body injury, is likely to return before DeKeyser and Daley.
"Abby's on the same timeline he was, I lose track of the number of weeks but he's getting closer and he's able to skate, which is great," Blashill said.
Blashill said DeKeyser and Daley have skated but very minimally.