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Notes: Smith seeks first goal

Wings looking for first win against Senators this season; Nielsen expected to play

by Arthur J. Regner and Dana Wakiji @ArthurJRegner and @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

DETROIT -- This has already been a memorable season for Givani Smith.

In his blog, Powering Forward, which he writes exclusively for DetroitRedWings.com, Smith wrote in his Oct. 18 entry:

"At the end of the year, I want to be in Detroit. My expectations for myself is if I'm fortunate enough to get called up, I want to leave a good impression where at the end of the season they go back and say hey, Smith's had a dominant year in the AHL, he did what he was supposed to do, had to do, he's ready to play in the NHL.

My whole life has led me to where I am today, as close to the NHL as I have ever been. I am totally committed to playing for the Red Wings. I dream of putting on the Detroit sweater. When that day comes, it will be the best day of my life."

Certainly when Smith wrote this in his blog, he was focused on building on a good second half of the season and an impressive playoff run he put together for the Grand Rapids Griffins last year as a first-year pro.

Little did he know he'd play for the Red Wings a little sooner than he envisioned.

Smith has been called up three times by the Wings this season and has appeared in eight games.

He has an assist (0-1-1), is plus-1, has been assessed five penalty minutes and has an ice time average of 9:23 per game.

His first career point came in Tuesday's 4-3 comeback victory over the Montreal Canadiens, when he drew the primary assist on Frans Nielsen's first goal of the game to pull the Wings to within one, 2-1.

"I think I'm feeling pretty good. I got a lot of familiar faces around here, so that kind of takes the pressure off," Smith told reporters after Friday's optional morning skate at Little Caesars Arena. "Having Robby (Fabbri) here and Tyler (Bertuzzi), I played junior with those guys. It just comes down to playing on the ice hockey. I'm pretty confident and it's an easy transition for me so far."

With his confidence growing, Smith was asked if he feels it's only a matter of time before he notches his first career NHL goal, perhaps even in Friday's game against the Ottawa Senators?

"I think so. I feel pretty good about it. If I get a chance on the power play," Smith proclaimed. "I've had a few (chances) but they haven't seemed to be going in. But it's hockey. That's what happens. Sometimes you get a good bounce. Sometimes you don't."

It has been Smith's mindset which has impressed many.

Last season in Grand Rapids, he was on his own for the first time and had a difficult period of adjusting to his new life on and off the ice, but after spending another summer in Detroit working out with fellow prospects and Red Wings, Smith understands what he needs to do to become an everyday NHL player.

"Givani, I thought, has done a fine job in not a lot of minutes," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said after Friday's morning skate. "He's a guy who, the one real NHL quality he has without a shadow of a doubt is his size. He's a huge man, he's a big man. Some guys are big in junior but they're not big in the NHL, some guys are big in the American League, they're not big in the NHL.

"He's a big man. That creates space for himself, both in the corners, in front of the net. I think he's done a pretty good job of that. He just has to keep making the proper reads, continue to get the pucks in behind and play to his strengths."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Jeff Blashill speaks with the media following morning skate at Little Caesars Arena. pic.twitter.com/3tegn4bJeC

Being a big man who plays big is an element the Red Wings have been searching for the last few seasons.

In Smith, they may have finally found a player who can provide the grit and jam every team needs to compete at the highest level.

TROUBLE WITH OTTAWA: The Senators might come to town winless in their last five games (0-4-1) but so far this season, they have handled the Wings rather easily.

On Oct. 23 in Ottawa, the Wings were playing in the second game of a back-to-back and the Senators prevailed, 5-2.

On Nov. 19 in Detroit, the Wings fell again to the Senators, 4-3, despite getting a shorthanded goal from Valtteri Filppula.

Another victory would mark the first time in Senators history they have won more than two games in a season against the Wings.

"One, we gotta play better than we have, and that's not to take anything away from them," Blashill said. "I think D.J. Smith's a real good coach. He's had them play hard. I don't think we've played very well in the two games. We went in there on the back end of a back-to-back after a real tough loss. We had the lead going into the third period and lost it, I think to Van. I thought we played way too emotional that game in a sense that we didn't play efficiently at all.

"In here, we played okay and then we just kind of gave away goals. We gotta play better. They forecheck really hard. They're very good at stretching their wingers out. They've got some wingers that are good at it. I think they do little bit as a team. Connor Brown, they did that in Toronto and he's carried that forward here. But we just gotta play real good hockey. More worry about ourselves and make sure we play real good hockey."

In particular, Ottawa forward Anthony Duclair has been a real thorn in the Wings' side, scoring two goals in each of those first two games and five points overall.

"Anthony's obviously had a really good season and he's done it before," Blashill said. "I think his first year in the league, he had 20, if I'm not mistaken, in New York. So he's got the ability to do it. He hasn't put it together as consistently throughout his career as I'm sure he'd like. But certainly this year he has. He was hot and he crushed us last time in here. I think he had two goals and a primary assist. He's a real talented player that you have to know when he's on the ice."

Originally drafted by the New York Rangers in the third round, 80th overall, in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the 24-year-old Duclair has played for five teams already -- the Rangers, the Arizona Coyotes, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Columbus Blue Jackets and now the Senators.

In 74 games last season (53 with Columbus, 21 with Ottawa), Duclair had 33 points (19-14-33).

In just 42 games this season, Duclair already has 32 points and has surpassed last season's goal total with 21.

Another fine young star for the Senators is defenseman Thomas Chabot, who turns 23 on Jan. 30.

Chabot is tied for third in overall scoring among the Senators and first among their blueliners with 25 points (4-21-25). Brown also has 25 points (7-18-25).

"Chabot I had a chance to watch a while ago at world junior," Blashill said. "I think that was the one in Toronto when the U.S. won. But he was excellent there. Then I saw him at the world championship first-hand this year and I thought he was excellent again. Really impressed with his game. He's really, really talented. I think as he's growing, he's able to manage his game a little bit better but he's got a lot of ability.

"(Ron) Hainsey's been a real good partner for him. You can talk about their coaching staff, because he makes, somebody said to me, Hainsey makes 25 minutes of real good decisions. So he can let a young horse kind of run a little bit. And Hainsey can look after him a little bit. I think it's been a good combination for them. I think when Hainsey's been out, it's been a little bit harder. My understanding is he's back today. Chabot's a real talented player."

NIELSEN SKATES: After missing Thursday's practice due to illness, Frans Nielsen took part in the team's optional morning skate at Little Caesars Arena Friday.

Blashill said he believed Nielsen would be available to play.

Nielsen is coming off a game in which he scored two goals, tripling his season total.

"Certainly confidence-wise, scoring matters and it's hard to have offensive confidence if you're not putting numbers up so scoring definitely matters," Blashill said. "Scoring usually follows your game being in a pretty good spot and I think he's played good for a while here. He just hasn't gotten rewarded. Now that he got rewarded, I'm hoping that can kind of break the bubble and he can really start scoring at a greater rate more in norm to what he's done in the league."

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