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Notes: Luke Witkowski gets first chance with Wings

Senators will be without captain Erik Karlsson for second straight game

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

OTTAWA - The Red Wings will have a slightly different look tonight in Ottawa than they did on opening night at Little Caesars Arena.

Wings coach Jeff Blashill said Luke Witkowski will play against the Senators, taking David Booth's spot on the fourth line with Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening.

"I think he had a good preseason," Blashill said. "Him and David are both real good players. David had a good game in very very short minutes, so he couldn't have a great game because he didn't play enough to, but with Luke he brings forecheck pressure, physicality, grind time in the O-zone. He's defensively responsible, he's been a defenseman most his life. He just brings a presence with his physicality."

Booth played just 6:23 Thursday against the Wild, recording three hits and one shot on goal.

Blashill said he didn't have a number of games in mind for Witkowski and Booth.

"It's a day to day business, and we'll take it day by day," Blashill said. "We've certainly got thoughts that we'd like to see both of them involved and both of them get opportunity and there's other guys in the mix, too, but right now we'll just take it day by day."

Witkowski said he was looking forward to the opportunity to play with his new team.

"I'll be skating my butt off, I'll be going 100 miles per hour, finishing every check I can, try to help create some energy," Witkowski said.

After spending the first 54 games of his career with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Witkowski said moving to the Wings has gone well.

"It went pretty flawlessly," he said. "It's a great group of guys, so they made me feel welcome right away, I'm looking forward to the season."

Justin Abdelkader said Witkowski has fit in well and can play an important role this year.

"He's big and strong, physical," Abdelkader said. "I think he adds an element to this team that will help us throughout the long season."

Witkowski is a solid 6-foot-2, 210-pound guy who enjoys the physical aspect of the game.

"The top line guys like to see that, the physicality," Witkowski said. "Obviously, give them a little bit of a break so they can get back out there and do what they get paid to do."

Although he has played more games as a defenseman, Witkowski spent most of his time in the preseason at forward, as he will do tonight.

"I played a handful of games last year, so getting used to different systems is a little different but I think it was a quick transition," Witkowski said. "I've been going back and forth here, I've been practicing some D this week, wherever they want me I'll be there."

Witkowski has just four regular season NHL fights under his belt but his presence on the ice often means others won't try to take liberties with his teammates.

Abdelkader has more than 20 NHL fights but is happy to share some of that burden.

"I'm not going to change the way I play but it is nice that he comes in and creates that added physical game," Abdelkader said. "Obviously he can fight if he has to. He's a great addition this year and we look forward to his contributions."

NO KARLSSON: Senators captain Erik Karlsson, who had offseason surgery to repair torn tendons in his left foot, participated in the morning skate, wearing a green jersey.

Afterward, Karlsson said he would not play against the Wings as he is still waiting for full medical clearance.

Tweet from @Dwakiji: #RedWings captain Henrik Zetterberg and #Senators captain Erik Karlsson at Canadian Tire Centre.

"I don't know if it changes anything from a systematic or schematic approach," Blashill said. "Obviously, when Karlsson's on the ice, you have to be very aware of him. I think the biggest thing is he's a big-time dynamic player. In the short term, teams usually handle that fine and this is short-term. They got a lot of other real good players, too. They were a goal away from the Stanley Cup final, they're obviously a real good team. It'll be a good test for us."

Last season Karlsson led the Senators in points with 71 in 77 games.

Kyle Turris led in goals with 27. Mike Hoffman had 26 goals and Mark Stone added 22.

"We just worry about the 20 guys that are dressed," Abdelkader said. "Obviously they're missing a player, we're aware of that. It changes a little bit about those guys but we worry about who's dressed and what challenges those guys bring. I know they have a couple young players, it's a good opportunity for those guys to come in. We got to make sure we're aware of their tendencies and prepare for them."

The Senators recalled defenseman Ben Harpur from Belleville of the American Hockey League yesterday and he skated with Fredrik Claesson in the morning skate.

KRONWALL SKATES: Defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who missed the first game with a sore groin and skated on his own Friday, practiced with the team Saturday morning.

"Day to day, we'll see how he progresses here," Blashill said. "I don't think it's a month, month and a half or anything like that but right now it's day to day."

After tonight, the Wings don't play a game until Tuesday in Dallas so there is a chance Kronwall could be ready by then.

FRK STILL ENJOYING HIMSELF: Frans Nielsen now has competition to be the first player to arrive at the rink every day as Martin Frk also likes to get there early.

Frk, who turned 24 Thursday, said he had a chance to reflect on that day, which included scoring a goal and an assist.

"I came home and I had one beer," Frk said. "I was playing with my dog, plus my girlfriend was talking to me, asking me all kinds of questions about the game, how it goes. It was pretty good. That was just a short time because next day was practice right away so had to go to the bed. It's every day. I enjoyed for a little bit but there is always a new day and you got to go start from zero again."

Frk said he was impressed with the crowd at Little Caesars Arena.

"The red carpet was pretty sweet," Frk said. "That was special for me. The fans were crazy, it was a lot of people there. I think that was my first game I played with that many fans. So that was definitely special for me. You could hear them. It was fun. I'm hoping they will come every game we are at home like that."

Frk is hoping that his chemistry with linemates Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha continues to grow.

"It's definitely special," he said. "I'm playing with great guys in my line. I just got a big opportunity that they've given me, I just got to go take it and don't let it go."

TRIBUTE TO MURRAY: The Wings will all wear a special sticker on their helmet as a tribute to the late Bryan Murray, who passed away from colon cancer in August.

The tribute has Murray's initials surrounded with the words: "Family man, friend, coach and mentor, 1942-2017."

Murray was coach and general manager of the Red Wings from 1990-93 and then just general manager from 1993-94.

LINEUP: Aside from Witkowski, everything else remained the same, including Jimmy Howard in the starter's net.

Tomas Tatar-Henrik Zetterberg-Gustav Nyquist


Darren Helm-Nielsen-Abdelkader


Danny DeKeyser-Trevor Daley

Xavier Ouellet-Mike Green

Jonathan Ericsson-Nick Jensen

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