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Notes: Smith thrilled to make NHL debut

Svechnikov adjusting to post-surgery life; Glendening, DeKeyser to miss at least two weeks

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

DETROIT -- It's the moment that every young hockey player lives for - playing in his first NHL game.

That moment has arrived for Red Wings forward Givani Smith.

Smith, 21, Detroit's second-round pick, 46th overall, in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, is set to make his NHL debut tonight at Little Caesars Arena against the Buffalo Sabres.

"I was pretty excited when I first got the call and then ready to play tonight," Smith said after the morning skate. "It's been my goal since Day 1. Same as a kid. Always dreamed about this moment, playing in the NHL. Now it's time tonight."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: .@givanismith24 checking in for morning skate at @LCArena_Detroit. pic.twitter.com/JCaSG8By4F

Defenseman Dennis Cholowski was also a member of the 2016 draft class, taken in the first round, 20th overall.

"We were roommates the first development camp and every development camp since, became pretty good friends," Cholowski said. "So we talked about (getting to the NHL) all the time. "So excited. I didn't even know that he had gotten called up. He didn't text me or anything and usually he does. Super exciting for him. I'm really happy for him and hopefully he can have some fun tonight."

Smith said at least 10-12 family members and friends would be making the trip from his hometown Toronto to Detroit.

Unfortunately, that group will not include his brother, Gemel, who is currently in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization playing for the AHL's Syracuse Crunch.

But his brother was the first person Smith called when he found out he was heading up to Detroit.

"He's real excited for me," Smith said. "He gave me some advice. Just be myself out there. He's seen me. He was giving advice when I was playing in the OHL, AHL. Just be yourself."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "My confidence is high with my goal of being a Red Wing well within my reach"Catch up with @givanismith24's latest blog entry in our Taking Flight series: https://t.co/raxQSxNLkI pic.twitter.com/uJfIHcrttV

That's exactly the advice Cholowski had for Smith, recalling his own first game on Opening Night last season.

"Just go out and be yourself and just play," Cholowski said. "Don't worry about too much, just go out and play and relax."

Smith, who took a while to get adjusted to the AHL when he turned pro last season, already had two goals and two assists in four games with the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins this season.

Cholowski has enjoyed watching his friend develop into the player he is today.

"He's your consummate power forward that has skill at the same time," Cholowski said. "He'll chip it in and then forecheck, fight and hit but he'll have skill and score, too. It's a great combination."

During the morning skate, Smith was on a line with Christoffer Ehn and Jacob de la Rose.

Tweet from @Dwakiji: #RedWings Givani Smith one of the early ones out for the morning skate. pic.twitter.com/F7dmGoqFu6

He also was net-front on the power play unit, taking the spot of injured forward Justin Abdelkader.

"It's pretty important," Smith said. "That's where I do most of my work, in front of the net in that scoring sphere. I'm happy that I'm getting a chance, an opportunity to go on the power play and do that as well."

Wings coach Jeff Blashill has gotten to know Smith since he was drafted and is looking forward to seeing what he can do.

"When Givani's been up here, he's played good in the exhibitions, really the last two years," Blashill said. "In talking to (Grand Rapids Griffins coach) Ben Simon and (Wings assistant general manager and Griffins general manager) Ryan Martin and our scouts, he's been really, really good down there. So when we're looking for a potential guy to fill in, we've said this for a few days, maybe he can come in help us. He's a net-presence guy, he scores the hard type of goals and he brings physicality and at times he brings you into the fight a little bit. I'm excited to give him a shot up and also a good reward for his play down there."

SVECHNIKOV ADJUSTING TO POST-SURGERY LIFE: Forward Evgeny Svechnikov has played two games for the Wings and three games for the Griffins.

He is finally adjusting to his new reality after surgery to repair his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last October.

"I feel used to the soreness if I have it," Svechnikov said. "Once the puck drops I don't really think about it more or less, even though it's there. I'm obviously used to it now. It's been awhile that we've been playing since the camp. I'm feeling good every single day. It's coming better."

The doctors have told Svechnikov that he has to wear a knee brace for at least a couple of years, including when he plays.

"I'm still not there with my speed and the brace doesn't help as well," he said. "It kind of slows me down. There's nothing you can do. You just have to push through it."

That does not prevent Svechnikov from being a physical and aggressive player, which he showed Tuesday against Vancouver.

"I was trying to get myself going and us as well," Svechnikov said. "It was great. Nothing wrong with it. It's hockey. I want to just tell them that they're going to be aggressive. It's just their area, it's our area as well, in front of the net. I'm going to be aggressive at the net."

HOT SABRES: The Wings are desperate to snap a six-game losing streak but they'll have to beat one of the top teams in the league in the Buffalo Sabres to do so.

The Sabres are tied with the Washington Capitals and Edmonton Oilers for the league lead in points with 17.

They lead the Atlantic Division with an 8-2-1 mark.

The Sabres lost just their second game in regulation Thursday night, 6-2, at the New York Rangers.

"I think it's huge," Svechnikov said. "They're coming it hot. I know that they lost last night. They're gonna be (ticked) off. We're gonna be (ticked) off as well. We need a huge win, and two points. I think it's gonna be big. We definitely have to bring in all we have and get those points in."

The Wings have not had a lot of success against the Sabres of late, going 3-4-3 in their last 10 contests.

"The last number of years they've compiled some really good talent," Blashill said. "(Jack) Eichel is a two overall, (Rasmus) Dahlin is a one overall, (Sam) Reinhart is a two, (Rasmus) Ristolainen is a first rounder. They've been able over time to add a lot of really talented players. They've also went out in free agency and added some really good players. (Marcus) Johansson's a really good player. Also, those young players have grown and had more time in the league, so they're really dangerous offensively.

"I thought watching last night, I would bet their coach would say they didn't play their best game of the season, but I also thought they were still dangerous. I thought Jack Eichel was dangerous every time he touched the puck, as dangerous as any player I've seen when I've watched games on TV. We're going to have to do a really good job of making them defend as a team and defending them."

INJURY UPDATES: Defenseman Danny DeKeyser and forwards Luke Glendening and Abdelkader did not participate in Friday's morning skate.

Forward Adam Erne, placed on injured reserve retroactive to Oct. 18, did skate.

"Luke will be out two-to-four weeks, could be a little bit longer," Blashill said. "Danny's at least two weeks. Abdelkader is day-to-day. Erne is on IR, I'm hoping he'll be available for Sunday."

The Wings host the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues on Sunday.

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