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Notes: Ryan Sproul ready to return from injury

Michael Rasmussen will play in his third preseason game Monday

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

DETROIT - The last game defenseman Ryan Sproul played was in brand new Rogers Place in Edmonton.

He'll play his next game in brand new Little Caesars Arena.

Wings coach Jeff Blashill said Sunday after practice that Sproul had been cleared for contact and would play against the Pittsburgh Penguins Monday night in the Wings' second home exhibition game.

"I've been pretty close for a couple weeks now," Sproul said. "At camp, it was kind of no point to force it, so I'd like to get into a couple exhibition games, so I'm looking forward to it."

Sproul was paired with Xavier Ouellet in Sunday's practice.

Sproul, 24, played just 5:14 against the Oilers last March 4 before injuring the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

He had surgery on the knee April 18 and said rehabilitation has gone smoothly.

"Really good, actually. It went faster than I expected," Sproul said. It's not even been five and a half months, usually it's about a six-month recovery and I'm ahead of schedule."

Sproul is looking to crack a crowded blue line that already has Trevor Daley, Danny DeKeyser, Jonathan Ericsson, Mike Green, Nick Jensen, Niklas Kronwall and Xavier Ouellet.

"When Sproully plays his best, he goes back to pucks and he breaks it out with his feet," Blashill said. "He's got to make sure he's fast back to the puck, he's got to make sure he spends as little time in the D zone as possible so he can use his best assets and that's his feet and his shot. If he's breaking the puck out good, then he's jumping into the play and he's real successful from the offensive blue line in. He'll get a chance on the power play as well and obviously needs to be elite on the power play."

Sproul, the Wings' second-round pick, 55th overall, in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, is well aware of his situation.

"There's different decisions that are going to have to be made," Sproul said. "That's nothing I can control. I'm going to go out there and play my game and hopefully make the team. That's my goal for sure.

"For me, it's just going to be play my game. I think that instead of trying to be more offensive, I'm going to try to change my game a little bit and just be more defensive and steady."

At the same time, Sproul knows that on the power play, he needs to use his shot like a weapon as Martin Frk does. "In the past my game has always been that," Sproul said. "Definitely not going to get rid of it but just need to be more steady overall."

In addition to that change, Sproul also switched numbers from 48 to 62 this past offseason.

"I got 48 given to me; 62 was my first number when I came to camp, so I like that number," Sproul said. "As a rookie you kind just get thrown around with numbers, so I just want to stick with 62."

RASMUSSEN GETS ANOTHER GAME: Michael Rasmussen, the Wings' first-round pick, ninth overall, in this past summer's draft, has already played in two exhibition games.

Blashill said the big center will also play Monday night against the Penguins.

During practice Sunday, Rasmussen and Riley Sheahan took turns centering Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist.

Blashill said Sheahan would not play Monday but declined to confirm that Rasmussen would be on that line.

"I think Rasmussen and (Dennis) Cholowski have both played well so we've kept them a little longer," Blashill said. "This isn't keeping them for this season but it's keeping them for experience to get as many looks as we possibly can. But I think they've both played very well. I think Rasmussen was one of our best players in Chicago, I thought Cholowski was real good, especially as the game went along in Chicago, so if we can get another look at them and they can get another taste of NHL hockey and also get a chance to play in Little Caesars Arena."

Rasmussen has one goal in two exhibtion games.

MONDAY'S GOALIE: Blashill said that Jimmy Howard, who made 19 of 20 saves Saturday against Boston, will start Monday against the Penguins.

DEKEYSER WITH KIDS: Despite playing in Saturday night's 5-1 exhibition win over the Boston Bruins, defenseman Danny DeKeyser was at the earlier Sunday morning practice with many of the younger players rather than with the group of mostly Wings.

"DK had a personal thing he had this afternoon," Blashill said. "He's got a baptism he's got to attend."

In DeKeyser's absence, Brian Lashoff took his spot alongside Daley.

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