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Notes: Frans Nielsen set to skate in 700th career game

Wings hoping for more power-play opportunities against Oilers

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

EDMONTON - Every hockey player dreams of playing his first game in the NHL and each one remembers that day in detail.

While there are quite a few players who have made it to one game, far fewer skate in 700 games as Frans Nielsen will do today.

Only 16 players from the 2002 NHL Entry Draft have played in more games than Nielsen, who was taken 87th overall by the New York Islanders.

"I know it's a lot of games but you don't realize you're there because time just flies by," Nielsen said. "It doesn't feel that long you've been in the league. But it's absolutely something I'm proud of. I think every guy that just gets one game in this league should be really proud. It's tough to get in this league, not only that, but stay in it.

"So 700 games is something I'm really proud of."

Nielsen got to celebrate Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg's 1,000th career game the last game of last season.

At 33 years old, Nielsen has a chance to reach that milestone.

"Yeah, it's getting closer, so we'll see," Nielsen said. "Especially Henrik, 1,000 games in one organization, that's impressive. That's a lot of games."

One key for Nielsen will be staying healthy.

Nielsen missed the morning skate in Ottawa last Thursday but managed to play in the game.

"I'm feeling good," Nielsen said. "We worked hard on it all morning and afternoon and it felt good enough to go. I'm feeling way better now."

Nielsen said he's hoping to build some more chemistry with his linemates, Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader, moving forward.

"Of course we want to produce more," Nielsen said. "I think we struggled with that. We spend a lot of time in the offensive zone and we created, we just got to believe in what we're doing and keep doing it and over time you're going to have success playing the way we do. I like the three games we've been together. Both sides of the puck I think we all three are responsible but we want to be able to create more offensively, too."

LARKIN VS. MCDAVID: The Edmonton Oilers get last line change being at home but there is a chance that Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha could find their line matched up against Connor McDavid's line with Leon Draisaitl and Patrick Maroon.

"I'm 100 percent confident in Dylan Larkin playing against anybody," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "I think Babs (Mike Babcock) had (Auston) Matthews out against him in that Toronto game. I know Matthews had a goal but I thought for the most part Dylan was the better player in the game. I think as a group, they certainly have the ability to do it. So we'll see how the match-ups go, I have some ideas in my head that I'm going to do depending on what he does."

Larkin said if that happens, he welcomes the challenge.

"Obviously we got to watch their game (Friday) night on TV," Larkin said. "(McDavid) makes something happen, it seems, every time he's on the ice. Can't take your eye off him for a second. He's pretty explosive. You got to have players that can skate with him and I think we're a good skating team.

"I think we can make them defend. They don't want to spend time down there, they'll get frustrated. The thing that's scary is you say they, it's him and Draisaitl and Pat Maroon are all three great players, big bodies and good on the cycle. You got to watch all three of them."

BETTER POWER PLAY NEEDED: The Wings have had sporadic success with the man-advantage this season.

Through 14 games, they are tied for 24th on the power play at 15.2 percent.

One thing Blashill would like to see is more opportunities on the power play, which means making the other team take more penalties.

"Hold onto the puck," Blashill said. "Certainly if you hold onto the puck and I think our quickness can help that. So in the O zone, guys like Double-A's had a history of drawing penalties, Darren Helm's had a history of drawing penalties. We just got to hold onto the puck more and make sure that we're utilizing our cut-backs, utilizing those types of things to draw as many as possible."

The Oilers have struggled on the penalty kill and are currently last in the league at 68.3 percent, including 54.2 percent at home.

Larkin's unit with Athanasiou, Mantha, Martin Frk and Mike Green wants to produce more but teams are focusing on taking away Frk's laser shot.

"I think you look at the goal we scored last game, with Mikey shooting it, it's wide open if they're going to be on to Marty right there," Larkin said. "That lane's open so I think with them taking away Marty, it's Mike and I have to shoot more is the key."

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