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Notes: Kaski making NHL preseason debut against Islanders

Young veterans Mantha, Bertuzzi and Athanasiou also playing in first 2019 exhibition game

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT -- Detroit Red Wings fans will get to see a fresh face and some welcome young veteran faces when the team hosts the New York Islanders in their third exhibition game tonight at Little Caesars Arena.

The fresh face is Oliwer Kaski, the free agent Finnish defenseman the Wings signed May 28.

Like several other players, Kaski was nursing a tweak or two after a tough training camp but is finally ready to play.

During the morning skate, Kaski was running the point on the power-play unit that had Michael Rasmussen, Taro Hirose, Adam Erne and Filip Hronek.

"I want to see him on the power play," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said of Kaski. "Obviously, see (Dennis) Cholowski on the power play and Hronek. You only have so many spots but a real good chance for Kaski."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Coach Blashill looks to tonight's preseason matchup with the Islanders.

Erne, who will be playing in his second exhibition game, was net-front on the power play in the morning skate.

"Talking to Steve (Yzerman) and talking to his coaches in Tampa, he's a guy who can fill that type of role potentially, so I want to give him a chance to show that, hopefully get a chance to kill some penalties, too," Blashill said. "Part of the preseason for me is getting to know him as a player as much as I can, so when we come time to play against Nashville I know him as well as possible."

The young veterans making their preseason debut are Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi and Andreas Athanasiou.

Bertuzzi and Athanasiou had also been dealing with a few training camp issues.

"(Blashill) told me he wanted to wait for at least one of them to be healthy enough to play tonight and to play with me," Mantha said after the morning skate. "Ras (Rasmussen) is gonna center us tonight. I think it's gonna be a fun night. Obviously, I want to get back in and I want to see how my offseason works out tonight."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: .@antomantha8 set to make his preseason debut.

Mantha is looking forward to reuniting with Dylan Larkin and Bertuzzi, who were hot as a line down the stretch last spring.

"It's probably going to take a couple of exhibition games to get it going, to find it again," Mantha said. "That being said, maybe it's gonna be right away. You never know. It's exciting. I'm pretty happy to play with those two players.

"Obviously I know how they play and they know how I play. Hopefully, we could create some magic on the ice this year."

Rasmussen is welcoming the opportunity to play with Mantha and Bertuzzi.

"I played with them a little last year," Rasmussen said. "Two great players, going to help me out a lot so I'm excited for tonight."

Blashill cautioned that Rasmussen might not be the only center to play with Mantha and Bertuzzi during the game.

"We'll probably rotate some different guys into that line but giving Ras a chance to be as good as he can and show his best side," Blashill said. "Obviously, playing with Mantha and Bertuzzi, Ras is more of a down-low type player. I wanted to keep Fil (Valtteri Filppula) and (Frans) Nielsen with the groups they have just to look at those lines as much as I can. I want to find out who I best what to play with Niels, who I best want to play with Fil. I just as easily could have bumped one of those guys out.

"I think (Joe) Veleno will get a chance to play with Bert and Mantha as well and just get a look at him."

Rasmussen played primarily on the wing last season but is getting a chance to return to his natural center position this preseason.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "As every games goes by I get more comfortable."Rasmussen on playing center in the NHL:

"Just trying to do my best at center and I'm just going to get my reps in and just kind of gain as much experience as I can there," Rasmussen said. "It's just a lot more skating, a lot more kind of responsibility in the D-zone and all that, and taking face-offs, too, is tough. I really like it. It's going good."

Rasmussen and Hirose will both be playing in their third exhibition games. The two had Thursday off after playing back-to-back against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Veterans Darren Helm, Nielsen, Filppula and Danny DeKeyser are also making their preseason debuts.

GETTING CLOSER: Larkin practiced with the team Thursday but Justin Abdelkader has not done so since training camp.

"He skated this morning with skating coaches, he just hasn't practiced," Blashill said. "I can't tell you for sure when he's going to be back but hopefully get him into practice soon."

The Wings do have nine total preseason games so Blashill expects to be able to get Abdelkader in a few.

"You got to hit the ground running come Game 1 and he knows that," Blashill said. "We'd like to get him in three still. The only chance to get him in three is for him to play Sunday or Monday."

Larkin could be on a similar schedule as he recovers from a slight heel issue that cropped up before training camp during offseason workouts.

"Sunday or Monday is what we're anticipating," Blashill said. "I'd like to get Larks three as well, Sunday or Monday, probably the game in Calumet and then the last game. We'll see."

MORNING SKATE: These are the forward lines and defense pairs from the morning skate:

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: GAME DAY @ Little Caesars Arena!


Erne-Nielsen-Filip Zadina


Helm-Veleno-Evgeny Svechnikov

Cholowski-Moritz Seider


Joe Hicketts-Kaski

Jimmy Howard is starting and Calvin Pickard is backing up.

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