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Notes: Rasmussen ready to measure himself against strong Toronto lineup

Jensen worked hard over summer to keep spot on Detroit blue line

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT -- Michael Rasmussen will get an important chance to show what he can do against an NHL-heavy lineup tonight in Toronto.

Rasmussen, 19, was the Detroit Red Wings' first-round pick, ninth overall, in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

Last preseason, Rasmussen led the way with four goals in the preseason.

When he finally returned to the Tri-City Americans, Rasmussen had an extra level of confidence from holding his own in his first NHL camp.

For the Americans, Rasmussen had 31 goals and 28 assists in 47 regular-season games. He then exploded in the playoffs for 16 goals and 17 assists in 14 games.

This preseason, Rasmussen has two goals and two assists in four games.

"I just think his game's more well-rounded now than it was even a year ago and I think he's gotten better and I think he has confidence from the year he had a year ago," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "I think he has gotten better net-front, I know he studied it a lot and has worked to get better at it so I think he's gotten better in that area for sure. I think he's a little bit stronger, a little bit bigger, just a little bit more advanced with another year under his belt. I think he's done a real good job."

During Friday's morning skate, Rasmussen was working on the first power-play unit with Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Gustav Nyquist and Dennis Cholowski.

"It's been good. Last game was really good, got us back in the game," Rasmussen said. "There's a lot of great pieces. (Nyquist's) great on there, today (Larkin) was back on there. Larks is awesome on it. Dennis is on it, great job as well so it's great."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "It's always my mindset to help the team win and make the team. It's kind of my mindset last year as well as this year," - @mrasmussen16 | #LGRW

Rasmussen said he is welcoming the challenge of facing the likes of Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Patrick Marleau.

"I think whenever you play, you have something to prove," Rasmussen said. "I definitely want to have a good couple games here, or game or whatever. Definitely always something to prove for me, and I think everyone in this room. Definitely lots to prove."

Blashill is looking forward to seeing how some of the young players like Rasmussen stack up against the Leafs.

"I know (Toronto coach Mike Babcock is) going to have an NHL-heavy roster and we're going to have an NHL-heavy roster," Blashill said. "It can't be your total team because you have to have eight vets in each game. Then the other part of it is you still want to get a look at some younger guys. Some of that competition and for us, we've obviously got a number of D injured. But there will be a lot of NHL players in the game tonight for sure, which will be a good warmup for everybody getting ready for next Thursday."

Although he was a British Columbia kid, Rasmussen said he liked the Maple Leafs growing up.

"They were always a good team," Rasmussen said. "I liked Mats Sundin, watching him, so I liked them. Obviously now kind of on the opposite end of the spectrum and got to compete against them.

"Watching all the Hockey Night in Canada and stuff like that, so definitely going to be pretty cool to play in Toronto against those guys. It'll be awesome."

Now that Tuesday's 5 p.m. roster decision is drawing near, Rasmussen reflected on everything he had accomplished so far.

"I just wanted to come in and do well and help the team and get better every day," Rasmussen said. "So I think I've done that pretty well. It's not a week-long thing, it's not a month-long thing, it's kind of a lifetime thing. I just want to get better every day and like I said, help the team win and be a good teammate."

JENSEN PUTS IN THE WORK: Among the current group of uninjured defensemen is Nick Jensen, who turned 28 a week ago.

Although he falls into the category of veteran on the blue line, Jensen has just 130 NHL games under his belt so he is not taking anything for granted.

"Camp has gone good so far, a lot of young guys are making a push to try and make the team, like I was years back when I was trying to make then team," Jensen said. "My main focus right now is the main focus it has been even in years past when I was playing on this team is you've got to show up every day and you've got to earn it every day, because nothing is going to be given to you. I'm not on the team yet, I have to use every day, I've have to use this game to make my case why I should keep playing in this league and keep playing for this team."

Last season was a challenging one for Jensen, who did not record a goal in 81 games despite putting up 107 shots.

"I am not the highest skill guy, I wasn't born with all-star skill, but there's some there and I try and develop that, so I worked with a shooting coach this summer," Jensen said Wednesday. "Obviously, last year was a bit disappointing with the amount of shots I had and the opportunities I had with zero goals. So, I worked with a shooting coach a little bit and I talked to (Jeff Blashill) about what I can do to put myself in a better spot to make the team. He said, 'Just making sure being able to handle the puck and deliver the puck up the ice to the forwards.' So, I worked with a stickhandling coach a little bit, just anything I could do to advance my game and keep playing on this team and in this league."

Jensen, who did have 15 assists last season after scoring four goals and nine assists in 49 games the previous season, believes he has more offense in him.

"I believe I can," Jensen said. "One of the key aspects of creating offense is getting up and playmaking in even-man rushes, odd-man rushes, the 3-on-3s and the 4-on-3s. Being that second wave of offense, being able to skate is a big part of that and I believe I can use my skating ability to create offense in that way."

MCISAAC SIGNS ENTRY-LEVEL: Although his training camp was cut short due to a shoulder injury, defenseman Jared McIsaac made a good impression.

McIsaac, the Wings' second-round pick, 36th overall, in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, signed a three-year entry-level contract with Detroit on Friday.

"I saw a really good hockey player," Blashill said. "I know the management staff was real excited about him, thought it was a great pick. He just seems to have confidence and sees and understands the game. He just seemed to be kind of a guy who made plays and was a bit of a ballplayer. I think he looks like a guy who's going to be a future NHL defenseman. Now he'll make that decision based on his choices and how quick he'll decide that, too, based on his play.

"My thing to him would be go back and play great, have a huge year. He seems to not have any glaring weaknesses, he's pretty good at everything, but keep getting better."

The Wings returned McIsaac to the QMJHL's Halifax Mooseheads, where he is expected to be ready to play in a few weeks.

In 65 games last season, McIsaac had nine goals and 38 assists, which led all Halifax defensemen and was seventh overall on the team.

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