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Notes: Hronek feeling more comfortable this season

Nielsen and Daley could play in Vancouver next week

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT -- Young players' development can show up in a lot of ways, on and off the ice.

Last year during the preseason, Red Wings defenseman Filip Hronek admitted that he just wasn't feeling comfortable.

After a highly successful season with the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins, Hronek was considered the front-runner to earn a spot with the Wings.

Due to injuries, Hronek was in the opening night lineup but was sent back to Grand Rapids after the return of some of the veteran defensemen.

Hronek not only did well back in Grand Rapids, he earned his way back to Detroit on Feb. 16 and he remained with the Wings the rest of the season.

He finished with five goals and 18 assists in 46 games, third among Detroit's defensemen behind Niklas Kronwall's 27 points in 79 games and Mike Green's 26 points in 43 games.

After the season, Hronek played for Team Czech Republic in the IIHF Men's World Championship in Slovakia, scoring 11 points, the most of any defenseman, and earning the world championship's Best Defenseman award.

"The worlds helped me a lot," Hronek said after practice at the BELFOR Training Center Wednesday. "We had a great team there and it was almost home so we had so many fans there. It was a great tournament for me."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Practice before we head out to Montreal. #LGRW

That confidence has carried through to the start of this season.

"Once you know you belong, you're just more comfortable," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "He's gotta know he belongs, just through his play, both the end of last year through the world championships 'til now. Once you know you belong, boy, you're way more confident, you're more comfortable in your own skin. I think it just makes you a way better teammate, player, person. You can have way more success when you're confident."

In the first three games, Hronek has a goal and two assists.

"Yeah, I feel more comfortable this year," Hronek said. "Obviously I know more guys here now and I'm not that nervous like I was last year. Just everything, what you're supposed to expect from the league and everything. Now I know what it is a little bit and that just helps."

Another thing that has helped is Hronek is taking more shots. He is second on the team to Anthony Mantha in that category, 17-8.

"I was working on my shot during the summer," Hronek said. "He was talking at the end of the last year I'm supposed to shoot it more. I'm just trying to get it through and on net."

In Tuesday's 3-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, Hronek did not let the fact that he had hit the post and the crossbar deter him from shooting again.

The third time was the charm as he finally fired the puck in the net.

"I think he's definitely made a concerted effort to shoot," Blashill said. "I think part of it's where he's at on the power play on the off-flank there, it's a shooter's spot. He's really bought into that. I think he's worked at it. It looks harder to me but I can't say for sure. I don't know the velocity measurement necessarily but it definitely looks like it's coming off his stick hard. He's really had a weapon that way. Now I saw that last year, even when I watched him back in GR, he had at times a real weapon there of shooting the puck. He did that in the world championships and he's just carried it forward to this year."

Hronek has mostly played the point on the power play so he's still adjusting to the new spot.

"It's kind of (the) same but it's a little bit different," Hronek said. "I can shoot it more and not pass that much."

The development of Hronek and other young defensemen in the organization is incredibly important, especially with Kronwall's retirement.

"The growth of young defensemen in this organization is going to be critical for us to have success," Blashill said after Tuesday's morning skate. "I think from Hronek's standpoint, he's shown himself to be a weapon on the power play, he's had lots of responsibilities placed on him with the defensive pair that he's with and the fact that he's going to go up against the other teams' best players. So I think what's a successful year for him? Being able to handle that and us winning games. Be able to maintain that position in the lineup and us winning hockey games. That means he's doing a good job. Then also being effective on the power play and the penalty kill."

INJURY UPDATE: Center Frans Nielsen and defensemen Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson did not practice Wednesday.

All three are on injured reserve.

"He's eligible to play Vancouver," Blashill said of Nielsen. "I think he'll be ready for that game."

The Wings are in Vancouver Oct. 15.

It sounds like Daley is in a similar situation to Nielsen.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Happy birthday, Dales! 🎂🥳 #LGRW

"First game he's eligible is Vancouver but neither of them skated, so they'd have to get skating here a little bit, so we'll see," Blashill said.

Ericsson, on the other hand, is still working through some things.

"He's gone back and forth," Blashill said. "He's one I thought would be back by now but he's had issues with his back, his hips, his groin, kind of intertwined. He just can't get himself to where he feels great. He practiced the one day, did a drill and had to get off. I don't have a further answer than that. It's one of those things you can't necessarily put a timeline on. Just waiting for him to get where he feels healthy."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Happy birthday, Z! ���

SVECHNIKOV STILL WITH TEAM: Evgeny Svechnikov remains with the Red Wings, although he did not play Tuesday against the Ducks and will likely not play in Montreal Thursday.

"I take it game by game," Blashill said. "I'm not necessarily searching to get Svech in a game but if we think he gives us the best chance to win that night, we'll put him in. Svech has only played one game in the last year of real hockey, and maybe a couple exhibition games, five games max. It's a lot to ask. But I'm glad he's up here. He's been rewarded for having a real good end to the camp and having a real good first game down there and if he gets in I think he'll be excited about it, but we'll see."

Svechnikov had a goal and two assists in the Griffins' 8-5 season-opening win over the Chicago Wolves.

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