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Notes: Green to return versus the Jets

Red Wings play next five of six on the road, need to turn it around quickly

by Arthur J. Regner @ArthurJRegner /

DETROIT -- It is so striking of a statistic, it is hard to ignore.

When defenseman Mike Green is in the Red Wings lineup, Detroit's record is significantly better than when he's sidelined.

Detroit is 13-8-2 when Green plays and 3-14-5 when he does not.

So it was good news to hear Green tell reporters he's ready to go after missing the last 13 games with a lower-body injury, which he suffered while blocking a shot in the Wings' 3-1 victory against the Los Angeles Kings at Little Caesars Arena on Dec. 10.

"Today was great, so I'll play tomorrow (Friday at Winnipeg)," Green said after Thursday's practice at the BELFOR Training Center. "We'll see how tomorrow goes and hopefully nothing happens. I will feel good enough to play (Saturday at Minnesota).

"It's frustrating more than anything. Hopefully, I'm able to get back into shape here quickly, but that time when you're out, when it initially happens, and you know you're going to be out, that's the frustrating part. Just trying to stay mentally strong through it and get back as quick as I can. That's all you can do."

Unlike Anthony Mantha, who was able to skate while rehabbing his hand injury, Green's recovery routine was different because he had to stay off the ice.

"I was able to still do things. Obviously wasn't able to skate until this past week," Green said. "But the stuff that I was doing off the ice helped for when I did get back on to make sure that I can move, and then usually it takes about a week to get your endurance back. I'm there, I'm ready. I'm ready to go."

Green, an extremely modest player, downplayed the Wings' record with him in the lineup as opposed to when he's out of the lineup, giving credit instead to the resolve of his teammates.

"When I came back, the guys really picked up the game and it was just coincidence at that time, I think," Green said about returning after missing the first nine games this season with a virus. "That's the thing about this league, experience and knowing this league is you have your ups and downs. Right now, as a team, we have to make sure that we get our wins here.

"I feel like we're starting to play good hockey. If we continue to do that, maintain it, I think in the long run, we're going to give ourselves a good chance to win a lot of hockey games."

Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill somewhat agrees with Green when it comes to the Wings' win-loss record with and without the gifted defenseman.

"I don't think it's a coincidence, but I've said this once before, both times Mike's been out, we've had other guys out, too," Blashill said. "So, I think the fact that we brought back Mike and whoever and as you bring healthier guys back into your lineup, it's a huge thing and I don't think it's a coincidence that our record got way better. I think as Mike comes back in, we'll put ourselves in good position. We still got to go out and execute at a high level."

Earlier this week, as Green was getting closer to returning to the lineup, Blashill said Green would likely play Saturday at Minnesota to avoid making him go in back-to-back games, but that has changed.

"Him and I had a conversation this morning. He wouldn't be in Friday if it wasn't for the opportunity to potentially play back-to-back," Blashill said. "I would have waited until Saturday if I wanted to make sure that didn't happen. Playing him Friday, we feel, after talking to our training staff and taking to Mike, that he could potentially be ready for that. That will all depend on how he feels Saturday morning."

Green's return should bolster a Detroit team that has not played poorly, but is playing just bad enough to lose.

"He's a dynamic D-man who helps us out always but especially offensively, can really jump into the play," Gustav Nyquist said. "He's a great, great D-man, so that'll help us for sure. (He) also plays defensively. He likes to get out of the zone quick, he wants to be on offense, just the way he skates, transports the puck himself, he can skate out of trouble in a lot of ways the way he skates. He helps you out in a lot of different ways, plays big minutes and is a big part of our team."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "Just trying to stay mentally strong through it and get back as quick as I can. That's all you can do" - Green on returning from injury.More from Green, Nyquist, Larkin and Blashill following today's practice day at Little Caesars Arena:

RED WINGS BACK ON THE ROAD: After a disappointing homestand where the Red Wings complied a 1-3-1 record, Detroit will play five of its next six games on the road, which may be the elixir the team needs.

"I think so. Change of scenery, change of schedule every day. You'll get out of your own routine and you'll be on the road," Mantha said about the benefits of the upcoming stretch of road games. "Obviously being with the guys on the road feels good, maybe a good dinner with a couple guys tonight and then just try and get something going for tomorrow night."

With Detroit being 12 points behind Montreal for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, the Wings must start winning regardless of where they're playing.

"We have to find a way to win. It doesn't matter if it's home or on the road, we have to find ways to win games," Blashill said. "I went through the last three five-game segments with our players today and if you look, the records are identical.

"They're 1-3-1 in all three of those segments but if you look at process, three segments ago wasn't good at all and we've got better to the point that we've had more chances than the opponent, more Grade A's than the opponent during this last five-game segment. We out-zone timed the opponent these last five games. If you do that again, you're going to get results. You just will.

"That's the way it works over long periods of time. We did that against teams, three of which are favorites to be in the Stanley Cup mix for sure and two teams that are in the playoff mix right now. We just have to make sure that we continue to put ourselves in position to win games, which we did in these last five games, but that we find a way to win at that point. That's the step that we have to take.

"With that said, the easiest way to do that is to continue to make sure that you reduce the number of goals you give up and the number of chances that you give up, so we have to make sure we do a good job of that."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Practice day before we head out on a 2-game road trip to Winnipeg & Minnesota. #LGRW

REMAINING OPTIMISTIC: Despite where they are in the standings, the Red Wings have continued to demonstrate a high compete level in every game, believing they are capable of going on a long run, catapulting them into the hunt for a playoff berth.

"Of course it's frustrating, but you can't let that frustration get to you. We've got lots of games left. We've been in a lot of close games," Nyquist said. "We can't let that frustration get to us, we just got to work hard every day and get better."

Green has watched the Wings closely while being injured and he feels the Wings have a real chance to establish themselves during the second half of the season.

"The greatest thing about this league is you get another opportunity in a few days. I think that's our mindset tomorrow, that we got another opportunity to win a game and go on a bit of a streak here," he said. "We got to make sure that we're putting ourselves in a good position at the end of the year."

Blashill has witnessed a growth in his team from the start of the season, which has him optimistic about the immediate future.

"At the beginning of the year, the huge mistake that we made was we started cheating in our D. We got away from the good process of playing good hockey. I thought we got back to it after the Montreal game (a 7-3 loss on Oct. 15). We didn't win in Tampa, but we did it right. You're not going to win every time you do it right, but you have to keep doing it right.

"I think hopefully we learned a little lesson. We'll have our challenges. We're going to play two really good teams on the road. We got a challenge ahead of us but we gotta make sure we focus on continuing to do it right, growing as a group and growing as individuals. That's where we're at."

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