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Notes: Hicketts to make NHL debut versus Devils

Glendening and Abdelkader close to returning to lineup

by Arthur J. Regner @arthurjregner /

DETROIT -- During the preseason, defenseman Joe Hicketts left a favorable impression with Red Wings management and Detroit's rabid fans.

The Wings called up Hicketts, 21, on Sunday from Grand Rapids to replace Trevor Daley, who suffered a lower-body injury in Saturday's 3-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

"Trevor's certainly out tomorrow (at New Jersey)," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said Sunday after the Wings held an optional practice at the BELFOR Training Center. "He's out tomorrow, he's out Tuesday (home versus Philadelphia), questionable before the All-Star break (Detroit hosts Chicago on Thursday).

"I'd say lower body, not a collision and not something that's going to keep him out for a month or anything like that, but it could be through the All-Star break for sure."

Enter Hicketts, who has always fought the stigma of being too small to be a regular NHLer.

Listed at a generous 5-foot-8, 180 pounds, Hicketts has proven himself at every level and will get his shot at the NHL Monday in New Jersey.

"I'm going to play Joe Hicketts tomorrow (Monday)," Blashill said. "Joe has a couple things I love. He's got swagger and he's got a great brain for the game. I think we could use some of that swagger.

"We need a little more offense from our back end. He hasn't had an unreal year, production-wise, this year, but if you look historically, certainly his point production last year as a rookie, his point production his last few years of junior were great. He had a great training camp for us.

"So, we're going to give him a look. I don't know if it'll be a long look or short look, he'll have something to say about that. I just think the swagger with which he plays and his ability to make plays offensively would be the reason why we're bringing him up."

In 43 games for Grand Rapids, Hicketts has two goals, six assists, is minus-10 and has accumulated 26 penalty minutes.

But as Blashill indicated, it's Hicketts' overall body of work that has earned him the call-up to the Wings. He plays a physical game and is not intimidated going against much larger opponents.

"He's got a big heart, big compete. He's excelled at every level because of those things," Blashill said. "His skill set doesn't scream NHL in terms of skating, size, body, all that, but he's proven people wrong his whole life. He was one of the best defensemen when he played for the Canadian World Junior team. He was out there for big moments, was a big piece of their Calder Cup championship team last year in Grand Rapids and I think he brings stuff to the table that can help our team."

Detroit rookie forward Martin Frk was Hicketts' teammate with the Griffins last season in Grand Rapids. He's excited to see what Hicketts can do in a Detroit uniform.

"From what I remember from last year, he can definitely play power play. He's got a good shot," Frk said. "And also for how small he is, he can really hit. He can be really physical. He can move the puck very well. His first pass is very good. He was one of our best D there last year. He's a good player. He's a little small but he's playing like he's a tall guy.

"He works every day hard. For how small he is, he's really strong. I was surprised how strong he is. He's definitely a great guy off the ice, too, as well. He's a special player."

Frk also added that in today's NHL, the game is played at such a high pace that speed and skill may offset size to a certain degree.

"The first time I saw him was at the rookie tournament in Traverse City and I was really shocked at how small he is. But then when I see him play, he was excellent," Frk said. "He's a great player. It's like now, size, I don't know if it really matters that much. If you are that small, you have to bring something else to the table. He plays very physical, so I think that's his plus."

When a player is called up, Blashill has always maintained the player is in Detroit to play, not ride the bench. He has always been a proponent of Hicketts.

When he was asked about whether the Wings needed more abrasive players such as Hicketts, Blashill was straightforward.

"The more guys you have like that, it's an important component of a hockey team. In order for that swagger to be effective, he's got to play well, he's got to have a positive impact on the game." he said. "I think the more people you have, and we certainly have some in this room, so I don't think it's necessarily a missing ingredient, but I also think the more people you have like that, the better off your team can be."

Hicketts was assigned to Grand Rapids after the Wings concluded their preseason schedule. He played in four preseason games, had four assists (three on the power play), was an even player and fired 10 shots on net.

"I think I've done everything in my power over the last couple years of junior, last year in the American League and over the summer to prepare myself to get to that next level," Hicketts told reporters after the Wings last home preseason game against Toronto. "I hope it's been enough to keep me here. If not, you go down and you got to do the same thing year after year."

Detroit has needed to catch a break on a player. It would be poetic justice if that player turns out to be Hicketts, a young man who has defied the odds and critics at every turn.

GLENDENING AND ABDELKADER CLOSE: According to Blashill, injured forwards Luke Glendening and Justin Abdelkader could be back this week, but Darren Helm's return to action will be after next weekend's All-Star break.

"Glenny's getting real close," said Blashill. "There's potential for Glenny for Tuesday night against Philadelphia at home. Abby's got a chance to play Thursday against Chicago. I think Helm will be after the All-Star break."

Glendening has been out since December 23 with an upper-body injury and has missed 11 games. Abdelkader (lower body) and Helm (lower body) were injured on January 13 in the Wings' 4-1 loss in Pittsburgh. They have missed four games.

It would be a boost to the Wings lineup to get the trio back, especially on the penalty kill, which has struggled recently, giving up four goals out of their last six penalty kills.

BLASHILL MAKES PRACTICE OPTIONAL: Sunday was scheduled to be a full practice for the Red Wings before they traveled to New Jersey for Monday's tilt against the Devils.

However, Blashill changed his mind, deciding Sunday's practice was optional where the players did not have to show up at Little Caesars Arena. He based his decision on how the Wings looked against the Hurricanes in Saturday's 3-1 loss.

"The challenge in this league, the No. 1 challenge in my mind as a coach, is the balance between getting your work in and having great habits and being battle tested, all those types of things, and energy and rest," Blashill said. "My point to that was we didn't seem to have as much energy (Saturday) as I would have liked us to have. I don't know why. If I knew for sure, I would have made sure we had tons of energy.

"But my job is to evaluate that, so I felt today was a day that was needed at this point to have an optional practice because of the fact that we need our energy level to be great come Monday. That's the No. 1 thing.

"Sometimes you practice -- this used to happen in college and the American League -- you'd have some unreal practices through the week and then you come out in the game and it almost felt like they'd spent their compete energy in practice. I'm not saying that's what happens, but sometimes it feels like it does."

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