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Notes: Nielsen returns to Nassau Coliseum

Smith making his physical presence felt with the Wings

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

UNIONDALE -- It's a homecoming of sorts for Frans Nielsen as he plays against the team that drafted him at a place he's played many times, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Three games ago, Nielsen scored two goals, which tripled his season total.

Overall, Nielsen has three goals and three assists in 41 games, which is far from his customary output.

"I think Fransy, it hasn't gone his way offensively but I do think through the course of the year he's game has been building and getting better," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "He's just more impactful on a shift-to-shift basis. He always cares a bunch, he always works really hard, he always plays accountable defensively. I think like anybody else, if you're not scoring, it hits your confidence a little bit and I think that he's got some of that back with a little bit more scoring.

"We've had him matched, it'll be a little bit harder tonight, but we've had him matched against the other teams' best and they've done a real good job with that. I think his game's building for sure and we're going to need it to continue to build."

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Blashill said Nielsen, Dylan Larkin and Patrik Nemeth, who did not practice Monday, are expected to be available against the Islanders.

Of late, Nielsen has centered a line with Darren Helm and Luke Glendening, which has had a defensive focus.

"Lately he's been a match guy so now you're having hard minutes against a Jack Eichel and I thought he did a really good job against him," Blashill said. "We'll try to get him out there tonight, either against (Mathew) Barzal or against the (Brock) Nelson line and he'll have to do a good job defending. They're probably going to get a decent amount of D-zone starts so the stats are hard to build when one of your first responsibilities is defense. But yet, you're helping the team win."

Barzal leads the Islanders with 37 points (17-20-37) and Nelson is second with 33 points (16-17-33).

The Islanders are playing the second night of a back-to-back set and will be looking to get back to their winning ways after losing to the New York Rangers, 6-2, Monday night.

"I actually got a chance to go down to the Garden and watch it live, which was great," Blashill said. "I don't get too many opportunities to do that. I thought early in the game, the first five minutes, the Islanders played real well. Scored the first shift, had a 2-on-1 with Barzal and (Anthony) Beauvillier right after that and didn't score. Then I thought the Rangers played good hockey. We know we're going to get an Islanders team who the coach has got their attention and we'll get their best tonight, which is great."

The Islanders are 27-13-4 overall and 14-5-3 at home.

The atmosphere is an electric one when they play at Nassau Coliseum as opposed to Barclays Center.

"Without a shadow of a doubt, yes," Blashill said. "That's my own observation. That's no offense to anybody. When they're on the Island, that place rocks. Those small venues rock. It doesn't have the amenities that I'm sure they'd like long-term there but the building absolutely rocks. When it's in Brooklyn, it's a normal building that's fine. So it's more of a college atmosphere, maybe what college used to be like when Yost would really rock. It's like that."

SMITH'S PHYSICALITY: Blashill has mentioned Givani Smith being a big, big man on several occasions since he returned to Detroit.

Against the Buffalo Sabres Sunday night, Smith registered eight hits, a career high for him and a season hight for the Wings.

"I think Givani's taking good steps," Blashill said Monday. "I think he's a better player today than he was a year ago, I think he's a better player than he was at the beginning of the year. I think he's been pretty good here at what he's good at, meaning physicality, certainly he's a load down low getting the puck to the net. I think he needs to make sure and continue to get better at playing within the system. You gotta have five guys on the same page and he's gotta make sure that he's executing the system. That's one area where he has to get better at."

The last player to record eight or more hits in a game was defenseman Jonathan Ericsson on Dec. 20, 2018 at Carolina.

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