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Notes: Glendening appears ready to return to action

Smith returns to Griffins; Nielsen in midst of odd season; Hirose could be back in lineup

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

SAN JOSE -- It was 23 days ago that Red Wings forward Luke Glendening blocked a shot in Ottawa and injured his left hand.

Glendening traveled with the team to California, has practiced with his teammates and appears ready to return Saturday night in San Jose against the Sharks.

"We'll know after practice here. Sure looks like it," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "I expect him to play but we gotta get final clearance from the doctor."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Practice day in San Jose. The boys are back in game action tomorrow night. #DETvsSJS #LGRW

Glendening has been the Wings' best and most consistent face-off man the last several seasons but Blashill said the doctor would also have to clear him for that duty as well.

There will be roster room for Glendening as the Wings made a move Friday evening, returning forward Givani Smith to the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins.

Smith played 6:57 in the 4-3 overtime win in Anaheim and 6:19 in the 3-2 overtime loss in Los Angeles.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: The Detroit #RedWings today assigned right wing Givani Smith to the AHL���s Grand Rapids Griffins.

NIELSEN IN MIDST OF ODD SEASON: To say this season is unlike any Frans Nielsen has experienced would be an understatement.

In the home opener against the Dallas Stars, Nielsen took a puck to the head, which kept him out three games.

He also missed the Nov. 6 game in New York after blocking a shot with his knee the previous game against Nashville.

But the most bewildering thing about Nielsen's season so far isn't the injuries, it's the fact he has yet to produce a point in 17 games.

"I don't know," Nielsen said after practice at San Jose's SAP Center Friday. "For sure it hasn't gone the way . . . I've never really been through this but I'm just trying hard to play my game out there and not focus on it at all. I think it's easy lose confidence and all that kind of stuff when you go through stuff like that, so I think it's important to try and play my game and then hopefully something goes in off my leg or something and goes in and you can look for something to build on like that."

Nielsen is correct in that he has never gone this many games without a point in his entire career.

Since Nielsen joined Detroit in the 2016-17 season, his longest drought has been eight games and he has never gone longer than the fourth game of the season without recording a point.

"Frans, obviously that line that we've had together there doesn't have a point. It's not just Frans," Blashill said. "I actually think Frans is trying hard. I think Frans has been pretty good defensively. I think Frans is pretty good on the penalty kill the last little bit. I think he's been part of our penalty kill doing better here lately. He hasn't produced. Hasn't produced lots of chances, either. So is that just on Fransy? No. Is it partly on Fransy? Yes. Do his linemates need to help with that? Yes."

Adam Erne, who has been on Nielsen's line, has played 16 games without getting a point. Brendan Perlini, a recent addition to the team and that line, has not recorded a point in eight games with the Wings.

"We might make a tweak to the line tomorrow which potentially gives them a little more offensive firepower," Blashill said. "I think Fransy's working like he's always worked. I think Fransy's accountable like he's always been accountable. It's just not producing the opportunities that we need him and that line to produce."

Although he has dealt with some injuries, Nielsen said physically he's fine.

"I feel good. Actually I've felt really good," Nielsen said. "I felt my skating's been good. I'm for sure getting older but I feel like I'm recovering really well. So yeah, from that standpoint I can't complain at all."

Blashill has said that confidence is everything in hockey and anyone can lose it, even established veterans.

"You guys saw it last year. Even with a guy like Thomas Vanek who's one of the best offensive producers in the league at different times in his career, confidence matters," Blashill said. "How do you handle it? You keep focusing on the things you can control. That's your effort, that's your attitude and that's your execution game to game. Again I think he's done a lot of those things positive. For whatever reason, we haven't had a lot of sustained chances with that group, so we'll see if we can make some tweaks to create more sustained chances."

HIROSE BACK IN?: Although he has been a healthy scratch the last four games, Taro Hirose could be making his return to the lineup.

During Friday's practice, Hirose was on the second power-play unit with Valtteri Filppula, Andreas Athanasiou, Perlini and Mike Green.

Hirose said watching the past few games has helped and knows what he needs to do when he does play.

"Just stick to my game," he said. "Try and make plays out there, keep it simple at times. I think I was turning the puck over a little bit too much and not managing the puck as well as I can, so being out a couple games, you get to see the game from a different perspective and I think that will help me going forward."

Hirose remains tied for second on the Wings in power-play points with Tyler Bertuzzi with five, all assists for both. Anthony Mantha leads with six power-play points (4-2-6).

"Hirose plays hard," Blashill said. "Hirose tries to do it right. He does all those things but in the end, you gotta make plays. Again he's a guy that can make offensive plays, so he's gotta go out and make offensive plays, while still being a complete player. But he generally is a complete player, generally does all those things. He's just gotta find a way to make some offensive plays."

NO HRONEK, NEMETH: Defenseman Filip Hronek remained off the ice Friday after missing Thursday's game in Los Angeles.

After that game, Blashill also updated the status of defenseman Patrik Nemeth.

"We expect Nemeth to be out a little bit," Blashill said. "He had a blocked shot that became an infection. We caught, the doctors caught it, the training staff did a great job. Now, will it be three weeks, is it less than that? I don't know that answer but it'll be a little bit of time."

ONE PREDICTION: As Michigan and Michigan State prepare to hold their annual grudge match at Michigan Stadium Saturday, there are rooting interests on the Wings.

Dylan Larkin and Glendening represent Michigan while Justin Abdelkader and Taro Hirose are on Michigan State's side.

Abdelkader is not on the trip so Hirose offered his prediction.

"I don't watch enough of the games to know but I'm definitely going to say that Michigan State's going to win," Hirose said. "I think it'll be a close game, a one or two-score game but after the loss last week, I think the guys will be definitely ready to go. Obviously it's a huge game, lots on the line. The whole time I was there, for whatever reason they ended up winning like, three out of four times. A lot of big guys would come up in big games so hopefully it'll be a fun game to watch."

The Spartans had a devastating home loss to Illinois last week and are looking to bounce back.

Hirose said he hasn't made any bets with either Larkin or Glendening.

"We'll have to see. I haven't talked to them about it yet," Hirose said. "Michigan State hockey picked up the win yesterday so I'm 1-0 on the weekend, I guess.

Tweet from @MSU_Hockey: BIG ROAD W

"Hopefully we get to keep that momentum."

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