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Notes: Red Wings expecting angry Oilers team

Abdelkader returning to form; Ericsson a game-time decision

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT -- The Edmonton Oilers have been a major disappointment this season.

Tuesday night in St. Louis, the Blues trounced the Oilers, 8-3, with the Oilers scoring two late goals to make the score look a little better than it actually was.

Tonight, the Red Wings are expecting an Edmonton team that wants to prove it's better than the 7-12-2 record it currently holds.

"They'll be coming out strong," Wings forward Anthony Mantha said. "They'll probably play angry. We need to be ready. Obviously they want to get a win tonight."

Wings defenseman Xavier Ouellet agreed that the Wings know better than to take the Oilers lightly, even if they are struggling.

"They're obviously going to come out hard," Ouellet said. "That's what we would do. If you get a bad game, you want to regroup as a team and come out hard. We need to expect that and be ready."

When the Wings were in Edmonton, they shut them out, 4-0.

"I think the whole team just played good," Mantha said. "If I remember, it was a 4-0 game. Our shutdown line did a great job against (Connor) McDavid's line and I think the rest of our lines just out-competed their lines. I think it's the same thing we need to do tonight."

Despite his team's woes, McDavid is still creating a lot of offense, with 10 goals and 16 assists in 21 games.

In Edmonton, the Wings were able to keep McDavid and his linemates, Leon Draisaitl and Patrick Maroon, off the scoresheet.

"I think it was the whole line that was on the ice," Ouellet said. "I don't know what the plan here is and what the coaches are going to try to do but I know last time (Dylan) Larkin was skating with him all over the ice. We did a good job, we just need to be tight on him. Like I said last time, take all the time and space away from him and that's going to help us for sure."

Larkin and his linemates, Tomas Tatar and Justin Abdelkader, were generally out against McDavid's line.

But the Wings have had success using the line of Luke Glendening, Frans Nielsen and Darren Helm against opponents' top lines so they might be out there against McDavid's line.

"They have a good mixture," Ouellet said. "They have a lot of speed on that line. You look at Helmer, you look at Glennie that's really fast too, Nielsen's so smart, defensively always in good position. They all have quite a bit of experience doing that so I think they're doing a really good job for us. It's a tough job and they do it great."

Wings coach Jeff Blashill said the Wings would be wise to avoid a so-so performance like they had in Sunday's overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche.

"We had a disappointing finish on Sunday," Blashill said. "I'd worry way more about our own team and the focus of our own team. We know Edmonton is a dangerous team. We know they have lots of talent, lots of pride. We know we're going to get their best. I think in this league you get everybody's best most nights.

"We didn't play good enough on Sunday. We talked about being great every night. In order to be a great team, we talked about the relentless nature of this league, you better choose everyday greatness and we're going to have to choose that again today."

ABDELKADER'S CONTRIBUTIONS: It's still early in the season but Abdelkader is reestablishing himself as an impact player.

Last season Abdelkader was limited to 64 games because of a knee injury and didn't feel quite like himself when he returned.

The big forward had just seven goals and 14 assists last season after recording 19 goals and 23 assists the previous season and 23 goals and 21 assists in 2014-15.

"Yeah, last year was a tough year," Abdelkader said. "Didn't get off to the start I wanted and once I had that knee injury I just never felt the same. I had a good summer of training, good summer of eating and felt really good coming into camp. Obviously, it's not always going to be points. I feel like I'm doing a lot of good things, been getting chances and trying to play both ends of the ice, defensively, offensively. Points are always nice, they're not always going to come, but when they come it's a nice thing."

In 20 games this season, Abdelkader has four goals and 10 assists with two goals and eight assists coming in his last 10 games.

"Obviously, the most important part is our team is getting wins and I think we've been playing better hockey," Abdelkader said. "I think we've had different guys step up at different times throughout the season. Any way I can contribute, try to get to the net, make play when I can. I think Larks, me and Tats have found some chemistry the last little bit here. It's been fun to play and always nice to produce but the most important is just going out and getting wins here, it's so tight in the standings and we got to continue to go out and do things right and play the way that's' going to make us successful."

Blashill said you can't underestimate Abdelkader's importance to the team.

"I think he's been real good, especially in the last month or so," Blashill said. "I think he's forechecking real hard. He can be a real good forechecker, he's done a real good job of that. About a month or so ago, we obviously needed way more net presence and he's one of the guys who leads the way on that as an example for the rest of the team. I think overall, he's been very, very good. I think he's a commodity in the league because of his size, physicality and his talent, but he's certainly a commodity on our team as well. We don't have a lot of guys that look like him, so he's an important piece for us."

Abdelkader looks a little different these days as he is wearing a full face shield to protect his broken cheekbone.

"It's not the best, but you deal with it," Abdelkader said. "I'm lucky to still be able to play with it. That's just one of the things you deal with, an injury that you're fortunate doesn't keep you out."

Abdelkader expects to wear the shield for at least another six weeks.

ERICSSON AILING: Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson did not take part in Wednesday's morning skate and Blashill said he would be a game-time decision.

"He just had a little tweak," Blashill said. "He was at home and had a little tweak."

Blashill said the tweak did not happen in Sunday's game and the look on his face indicated there was a story to be told.

"I'm a father and I had a young baby and I know what it's like to pick up a baby out of a crib," Blashill said.

FRK SKATES: Martin Frk, who scored in the Wings' 4-0 win in Edmonton Nov. 5, will miss his fourth game with a groin injury tonight.

"He skated on his own yesterday and today," Blashill said. "We're going to have a light practice tomorrow, we don't skate Friday, probably not going to skate as a team on Saturday, so certainly it would lead to having a couple practices next week before he'd be anywhere near ready, so he's at least another week away from today."

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