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Notes: Now it's Hirose turn to play in his hometown

Wings missing DeKeyser, Nemeth and Erne in practice; power-play units changed a bit

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

CALGARY -- First it was Red Wings defenseman Dennis Cholowski who got to play in his hometown of Vancouver on Tuesday. Now Taro Hirose gets a turn.

Although Hirose played in 10 games last season for the Wings after signing as a free agent out of Michigan State, none of those 10 games were played in his hometown of Calgary.

That will happen for Hirose on Thursday night when the Wings play the Flames.

"It's pretty exciting," Hirose said after practice. "You never really, growing up, know if you're going to be able to play at the NHL level in that rink. I'm sure once we get there, it will be a little bit more exciting. Right now. I'm just taking it day by day."

Hirose is expecting a good cheering section at Scotiabank Saddledome Thursday night, including parents Susan and Chris, but doesn't have an exact number.

"I'm not really sure exactly, honestly," Hirose said. "I didn't have to get too many tickets, because a lot of my buddies already have season tickets to watch the Flames. I'll probably meet up with them today and catch up with them. Probably go back to my house tonight."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "I'm just looking to get more comfortable each game."- Hirose x practice day. pic.twitter.com/O3Y5LSRKOq

Of course, defenseman Mike Green is also a Calgary native but he has played in his hometown many times so the novelty has probably worn off a bit.

During Wednesday's brief practice at Calgary's Winsport Arena, Hirose was on a line with Valtteri Filppula and Christoffer Ehn instead of with Andreas Athanasiou and Luke Glendening.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: The road trip continues.#DETvsCGY: Tomorrow night. pic.twitter.com/Bc1huDO3py

"Filppula and Hirose can shoot, whether they want to shoot all the time or not is a different story, but they both can shoot, so maybe it's better to put them with guys who don't want to shoot, then they have to shoot," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said.

At 5-foot-10, 162 pounds, Hirose is still learning to adjust to playing against NHL players who are significantly bigger and stronger, like Vancouver defenseman Tyler Myers, who is 6-foot-8, 229 pounds.

"He makes some plays, he's not a big guy, so he needs to be dynamic in his playmaking, they have some big D, and at times it was hard for him and at times he did a good job of making some plays," Blashill said. "If we can spread out the lineup a little bit, that might give him an opportunity to not go against the Tyler Myers-type D every night and be a physical mismatch. Taro's body is what it is, he's got to find a way to be really productive with his skill set or somebody else takes those roles, so we'll see."

Hirose has had to adapt to playing against bigger players before and it's as much mental as it is physical.

"There's no one key, or anything like that," Hirose said. "It's just being quick and knowing what you're going to do with the puck before you get it is a big thing, I think. When you're holding on to the puck too long and they have time to sort of wrap you up and use their strength, you're at a real disadvantage. So it's just being quick with your decisions and making sure you're moving the puck."

WORKING ON THE POWER PLAY: Although the Wings had some decent chances on their power play against the Canucks, they finished 0-for-3, which included 1:37 with the two-man advantage.

"We didn't score, so obviously we're not okay with that," Anthony Mantha said. "We did have a couple of good looks. We did the plays we wanted to and it didn't go in but like I said, not scoring is what matters on a five-on-three. That sucks."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "You won't necessarily score on the first chance, it's going to be the second or third rebound that's going to go in and I think that's what we need to focus on."- Mantha x practice day. pic.twitter.com/lyq8WxSuXK

Although it's still a small sample size with just six games played, the Wings are currently ranked 26th at 11.1 percent.

Mantha has recorded both of the Wings' power-play goals with Cholowski and Hirose assisting on both goals.

To that end, the power-play units had a different look during Wednesday's practice.

Athanasiou was moved to the top unit with Dylan Larkin, Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi (net front) and Cholowski.

"Originally, going into the season, I wanted to have Athanasiou on that unit, the way they left, and his injuries in the preseason didn't give him enough reps, so we gave Hirose a chance there," Blashill said. "Obviously, our percentage is no good. I thought our power play was going fine for a while even without the percentage, but now it's starting to really sputter. Athanasiou is a real dynamic player, can make plays on his own and I think he can do a lot of things with other people, so I'm hoping it helps both units click a little bit."

Mantha believes Athanasiou could spark the first unit.

"A lot of speed on the breakout. Him and Larkin can just fly on the ice," Mantha said. "Anything could happen at that point. He has a great shot, great release. He could find the open areas and we'll see how it goes. We had him a couple of games last year. This year, it's going to be his first game on our unit, so hopefully it pays off quick."

The other unit had Filip Hronek, Filppula, Hirose, Justin Abdelkader (net front) and Green.

"I got to get the other unit out there a little more," Blashill said. "I think Fil Hronek is one of the better power-play players we have and he hasn't been out there enough. I've tried to give the top unit the ice time that top units in the league get but it hasn't worked, so I'll end up splitting that ice time more."

INJURY UPDATE: Defenseman Danny DeKeyser, who was a late scratch in Vancouver with what Blashill called a mid-body injury, did not practice Wednesday in Calgary.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "You want to learn from yesterday and get better today."- Blashill x practice day. pic.twitter.com/aPnQ8nU5ty

"You only miss guys to the extent to whether other guys step up big or not," Blashill said. "The less guys step up, the more you miss them and vice versa. Danny is a huge part of our team. Danny's been an excellent player for us at the beginning of this year, he was excellent player at times last year.

"He's really coming into his own as a top-four type player and if he misses, that means whoever steps into those increased minutes has to play that much better. He's a big piece of our penalty kill, he's a big piece of our five-on-five game. He breaks us out of our end well. So other guys got to step up."

Although considered more of a defensive defenseman, DeKeyser is fourth on the team in points behind the top-line forwards with four assists in five games.

Also missing from practice were defenseman Patrik Nemeth and forward Adam Erne.

"Nemeth is fighting a little bit of an illness," Blashill said. "DeKeyser and Erne couldn't skate today, I don't know if they're available tomorrow or not."

Blashill said Erne's upper-body injury occurred before he tangled with Myers early in the third period.

After the team removed forward Frans Nielsen and defenseman Trevor Daley from injured reserve before Tuesday's game, they returned forward Evgeny Svechnikov to the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins.

Svechnikov was to meet the Griffins in Texas.

Blashill said there were no immediate plans to call another player up.

"No, we'll leave it at 12," Blashill said. "If something happens where one of those other guys couldn't play, we'd probably go 11 (forwards) and 7 (defensemen)."

REGULA SHINES: Defenseman Alec Regula, the Wings' third-round pick, 67th overall, in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, had a very good week for the OHL's London Knights.

The 6-foot-4, 208-pound defenseman had three goals and two assists in two games, including a three-point game against the Saginaw Spirit. Regula was named to the Vaughn Hockey CHL Team of the Week.

Tweet from @OHLHockey: A 5������ point weekend and a place in the national spotlight ���@DetroitRedWings prospect @AlecRegula of the @GoLondonKnights has been named to the @VaughnHockey #CHL Team of the Week.READ 📰: https://t.co/P2S2u0bE3E pic.twitter.com/7sUF4Jayky

Regula is second on the Knights in scoring with 10 points (4-6-10) in five games.

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