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Notes: Red Wings captain set to make preseason debut

Defenseman Joe Hicketts will have a chance against tough Toronto lineup

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT - It is finally time for the captain to make his preseason debut.

Henrik Zetterberg will play against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Little Caesars Arena tonight against what will be a very solid lineup.

"Probably ask me after the game, I might have a different answer, but it's good to get a real test," Zetterberg said after the morning skate. "I wanted to play two games. I missed one last week, now it's just going to be one. I think I played one last year, too. You just got to get out there, I think today is to just get used to playing games again. Kronner (Niklas Kronwall) said you can only practice that much, you have to get into games and get into those situations. I will get a good test tonight."

Zetterberg will be with familiar linemates in Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist both 5-on-5 and on the power play.

"Obviously we finished the season together as a line for the last 20-25 games, so hopefully we'll find back to that chemistry pretty quick," Nyquist said. "Both me and Tats played with Hank over the years for quite a bit, so I think we'll be fine adjusting to it."

Wings coach Jeff Blashill believes that Zetterberg should be fine, especially since he is not coming off any offseason injuries, just a minor neck thing from last week.

"First of all, he's had real good practices, obviously skated a lot," Blashill said. "So I think it puts him in a real good spot. He just had the little kink in his neck there, which held him out of maybe playing two games. But one game's plenty for him. He's been able to practice with Nyquist and Tats a little bit, he's been able to have some power-play practice so there's some continuity with that group as well. I think it'll be good to get him real game action against a real good lineup tonight."

LEAFS WILL LOOK LIKE LEAFS: The Maple Leafs are bringing almost their entire regular roster for tonight's game and the Wings are playing a lot of regulars as well.

"I think it's good," Blashill said. "Babs (Toronto coach Mike Babcock) and I had a conversation a couple weeks ago, just to talk about potentially setting a lineup. You try to talk to other coaches when you can just to see if maybe you can get NHL against NHL and we certainly have that tonight for the most part so I think that's great for both teams to be more prepared for their openers."

Among the Leafs players fans can expect to see include forwards Patrick Marleau, Mitch Marner, Connor Brown, William Nylander, Auston Matthews, James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri; and defensemen Nikita Zaitsev, Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, Martin Marincin and Ron Gainsay.

"That's great," Nyquist said. "Play against a full NHL team, the last game here for a lot of us before the real thing starts. It'll be good to be up against a good team. It will be a fun game to play."

For the Wings, in addition to Zetterberg, Tatar and Nyquist, forwards include Anthony Mantha, Dylan Larkin, Frans Nielsen, Luke Glendening, Darren Helm and Riley Sheahan. The defense will have Danny DeKeyser, Trevor Daley, Jonathan Ericsson, Mike Green and Xavier Ouellet.

Blashill often talks about how challenging it is to evaluate players in the preseason when the lineups are not stocked with NHL players but tonight will be a good chance to look at defenseman Joe Hicketts.

"Hicks has the moxie, the confidence, the swagger, makes tons of plays, every level he's been at he's excelled," Blashill said. "World Junior for Canada, he's out there on the ice at the end of the games. Wins a Calder Cup, is a huge factor in it. His skill set doesn't necessarily breathe NHL from he's undersized and not a great skater, so the only way you find out if those guys can play is to play them. I was hoping Toronto would have a good lineup and we get to test him against a great lineup, probably the best offensive top to bottom lineup, one of the best in the Eastern Conference."

COACH'S CHALLENGE: Fortunately for Teddy, Josie and Owen Blashill, their father is not a betting man.

In Thursday night's exhibition game against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Wings challenged that Alex DeBrincat's power-play goal was offside.

Because the referees ruled the goal was not offside, under the NHL's new rule, the Wings were given a bench minor penalty for delay of game.

"We had a situation last night where we lost communication with the back," Blashill said. "Basically, in real live action when you lose communication, you can't go on what you see live. I've been wrong lots and I was wrong last night. As I said last night, I would have bet my kids' lives on it and I'd be kidless today. That's the way it goes. We certainly won't do that."

Blashill understands the intent of the rule change.

"The spirit of the rule, both with this and goaltender interference, was the flagrant ones," Blashill said. "I think there was one (former Wings assistant coach) Tony Granato showed me from Pittsburgh when he was coaching there a number of years ago that was four feet offside. That's the ones they want to get. I get it, 100 percent. I totally get it. When I saw it live last night, I thought he was four feet offside. The video, had I been able to talk to my guys, it wasn't. That's why we'll have to, in the regular season, make sure it's 100 percent obvious, otherwise we're not going to be able to call it."

Blashill said they would make sure the communication with the video people in the back is functioning properly before the regular season starts.

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