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Notes: Jensen and Wings defensemen looking to shoot

Detroit will see Carolina at full strength with leading goal scorer Aho back in the mix

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

RALEIGH -- For the most part, the Red Wings don't have defensemen like San Jose's Brent Burns, who shoot early and often.

Burns had nine shots of the Sharks' 31 shots against the Wings Wednesday and leads the league with 214.

However, as the Wings emphasized a shooting mentality, defensemen Mike Green and Nick Jensen led the way with six apiece, and the blue line contributed 18 overall.

"The 18 shots by the D included in that 44 I thought was real important," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said after the team's optional morning skate. "That's an area where I think if we're going to improve our shot total, a lot of it has to come from that back end. Everybody collapses in the O-zone, so when you get the puck low to high, you gotta find a way to get that puck to the net and I thought our D corps did a good job of doing that, and I thought our D was active. The shot total and the increased production from our D corps to me is two easy ways to increase our output."

Jensen said during the team meeting after the All-Star break, the team's total of 24 shots in the 5-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks before the break was mentioned.

"The mentality is you're not passing up any opportunities to shoot the puck," Jensen said. "That's what I did and I got a lot of shots. Statistically, probability-wise, they're bound to go in once in a while. I know I don't have any yet this year but if I keep doing it, I think I'll get one or two. So that's the mentality we're all sticking with. Same thing with Daley, he just throws them at the net, backhand and goes in. That's the mentality we have."

Jensen's last goal came April 1, 2017 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, a span of 52 games without a goal.

Jensen had four goals in 49 games last season and has shown some offensive ability.

"Nick creates a lot of different stuff because of his feet," Blashill said. "He was active with a goal for in Chicago. Bert's (Tyler Bertuzzi's) goal was a lot to do with his play. He's certainly somebody who can add some of that offense, but I think the whole crew can. I think it starts with having that shooting mentality."

Jensen said he believes everything starts in the defensive zone.

"The less time you have to spend in your D zone, the more energy you have," he said. "It's a world of difference when you have to spend a minute, minute and a half in your D zone defending, you got to get off the ice right away. When you're in the D zone, you get it out in 10-15 seconds, you're able to keep that energy and get up the ice, join the rush. I think I had a few opportunities where I got to do that last game so I think we got to keep doing that and hopefully all the D, that's our mentality, creating offense, turning 3-on-3s into 4-on-3s and 2-on-2s into 3-on-2s."

Trevor Daley had four shots, one of which went in the net for the Wings' only goal in regulation.

Although Daley has good skating ability like Jensen, Blashill cautioned against expecting Burns-type offense from him.

"Especially Trevor, through much of the year he's had the responsibility of defending against the other team's best players," Blashill said. "Can he add more offense? Yes. But part of that is he's been one of our shutdown guys. It's hard to add tons of offense when you're shutting people down. That's another thing for (Darren) Helm and (Frans) Nielsen and Glenny (Luke Glendening). You're trying to make sure they don't score, too."

PICKING UP THE PK: The Wings had a top 10 penalty kill for most of the season until the injury bug struck.

Coming into tonight's game against Carolina, it ranks 19th in the league at 79.7 percent.

Having Glendening back the last three games and getting Helm, Abdelkader and Daley back into their roles will certainly help.

"One thing we try to do at the beginning of the year is keep with some pairs where you can really build chemistry and I thought the chemistry was there," Blashill said Thursday. "Then when guys get hurt, you lose some of that and you're trying to work to get it back. I thought the kill was real good (Wednesday) night and it's going to be an important piece for us here down the stretch. We got to have real good specialty teams."

Jensen said having those three return did make a difference against the Sharks, who have the league's fifth-best power play at 23 percent.

"I think our PK has been really good all year," Jensen said. "I know we slipped to 20th in the standings but those guys, they're outstanding. Helm and Abdelkader, they're so noticeable out there with their knowledge and their speed. I notice it when I play out there. But we had guys step in when those guys were out that did a great job as well. So I think everyone we have is really capable of penalty kill."

MRAZEK FOCUSED: Although the Feb. 26 trade deadline is fast approaching, goaltender Petr Mrazek said he isn't thinking about it.

"Not really. I think players know about it, they know it can happen," Mrazek said. "That's how hockey is, that's the life and lives go forward. Just every game I play, it makes me happy and I don't worry about anything else right now."

Mrazek is happy that he will be starting his fourth game in the last five.

"It's way better for sure when you play more games and you don't play once or two times a month," Mrazek said.

Although Jimmy Howard got the bulk of the work in the first part of the season, Mrazek said he did everything he could to maintain his confidence.

"The practice is a little different than the regular game but you just try to work on the stuff that can happen in game and do the best when you get a chance," he said.

Against the Hurricanes, Mrazek is 5-1-0 with a 1.83 goals-against average and .948 save percentage in six career games.

CAROLINA ON MY MIND: The Hurricanes will be playing the second game of a back-to-back after shutting out the Montreal Canadiens, 2-0, Thursday night at PNC Arena.

Blashill and the coaching staff watched that game.

"Certainly, they work," Blashill said. "They get to the net hard in the O-zone. They get tons of pucks to the net. Their shooting statistics will speak for that. Cam Ward was very good, I thought Carey Price was very good. The work ethic and the get to the net - I thought the Staal line was excellent last night as well, and they obviously have a real good D corps. I thought Montreal had moments where they looked like they were going to get an opportunity and a stick on puck or a block by the D corps happened."

When the Hurricanes came to Detroit on Jan. 20, they earned a 3-1 win without leading scorer Sebastian Aho, who was injured at the time.

Aho, 20, returned to action Tuesday and scored a goal against the Ottawa Senators, giving him a team-leading 17 among his 38 points.

"He was excellent last night on that line with (Teuvo) Teravainen and (Jordan) Staal," Blashill said. "I thought he was excellent. He's a real good player, a real good piece for their team, and I think there's a lot of nights where he's probably their best offensive player, so we'll have to be aware of that and we'll have to do a good job of making him defend."

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