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Notes: Tatar returns and the Wings are eager to face him

Red Wings expect former teammate to be chirping away on the ice

by Dana Wakiji and Art Regner @Dwakiji and @ArthurJRegner /

DETROIT- It will be a strange homecoming for Tomas Tatar when he skates onto the Little Caesars Arena ice Thursday night as a member of the Vegas Golden Knights.

Tatar was acquired by Vegas with minutes left at the trade deadline on February 26 for three high draft picks, including a first-round pick at this year's draft in Dallas.

"I was just waiting, what's going to happen and I knew the deals are finishing after 3 (pm) too, so I was waiting a little longer," Tatar told reporters after the Golden Knights morning skate on Thursday, when asked how he spent trade deadline day. "When it happened, it happened so fast I wasn't even sure where I was traded. The first five minutes was a little shaky but then I think the excitement took over."

He said the news of the trade was being reported on television at the same time Wings general manager Ken Holland called him to let him know he had been dealt. It was an emotional phone call on both ends of the line.

"I've been here for so long (close to seven years) and I've been in a good relationship with Ken (Holland) and Blash (Jeff Blashill) and my teammates," Tatar said. "Obviously, it's tough to say goodbye to all of them, you are a little upset about it but then, like I said, just the excitement to join a new team, making new friends, joining a new organization kind of took over so I was trying to focus everything on that, to come here and be ready to play."

But Tatar admitted when he signed his four-year deal worth $21.1 million last summer, he thought he would remain a Red Wing through the length of the contract.

"When you sign this kind of deal, you're thinking you're going to be here, but I knew we have to start playing better," he said. "Unfortunately, we didn't so something had to change. I heard rumors that teams were pretty interested about me so I was kind of a little ready for it that it might happen and it happened."

Since the trade, Tatar has appeared in four games for Vegas. He has one goal (at New Jersey, March 4) on the power play which was a game-winner for his only point thus far. The former Wing is minus-5 and is averaging 14:19 of ice time per game.

"It's good to get that monkey off the back for sure," Tatar said. "I had a few chances in the games before but unfortunately I couldn't find the net. We lost those games, too, so it kind of wasn't the best start.

"But here's a new day, we are playing Detroit so hopefully we'll play good and win a game."

WINGS EXCITED TO SEE TATAR: Without question, Tatar was popular within the Detroit dressing room. His upbeat personality and being the team's DJ endeared him to his Wings' teammates.

And with Tatar returning Thursday as a member of the Golden Knights, to a man the Wings can't wait to compete against old number 21.

"We were together for a long time, even in Grand Rapids, pretty much for our whole careers we've been together and good friends so it'll be fun to play against him," Gustav Nyquist said. "We've been texting quite a bit, obviously the day he got traded and then a little bit after just checking in on him.

"I think it goes both ways. It's hard for him to leave a team that he's been with for a long time. We lost a good character in the room, a funny guy. But I wish him all the best."

Now that he's gone, Dylan Larkin really appreciates what Tatar brought to the Red Wings.

"It will be a little different, I'm excited to see him, I'm happy he's doing well and in a good place," Larkin said. "I didn't really realize how meaningful he was in our locker room and to our team until he left. He's a big voice and a bit of a character and I miss that, I miss his energy, he's always happy. It will be good to see him."

Winger Anthony Mantha echoed what his teammates had to say about Tatar.

"It should be fun. Tatar was a great guy here. I can't wait to see him out on the ice again," Mantha said. "He was usually pretty quiet when we played, but I hope tonight he's going to bring a couple of chirps out on the ice."

Mantha may be the only Wing to label Tatar as quiet. Many of the Wings expect Tatar to be chirping the whole game.

"He probably will be talking Z's (Henrik Zetterberg) ear off, Kronner's (Niklas Kronwall), Ny's (Nyquist) for sure, he'll be chatting out there for sure," Jimmy Howard said. "I can't really speak for the rest of the guys. I won't exchange words."

Nyquist knows Tatar will be a chatterbox.

"I'm sure he'll probably chirp some of our guys and I think he's going to hear quite a bit back," Nyquist said. "Even for a short guy like him, he'll get on guys. I think he'd go after Abby (Justin Abdelkader), he'd go after me, Hank (Zetterberg) a little bit, too."

When Tatar was asked if he'll be trashing his former teammates and are there a couple of Wings he will center in on, he was diplomatic.

"I think it's part of hockey for sure so I bet there's going to be a lot of chirps out there," Tatar said. "I just want to focus on my game. It's a new team for me so I have to establish myself here. I want to focus on myself first."

SVECHNIKOV BACK: It took a little longer than he had hoped but Evgeny Svechnikov is now back in Detroit.

The Wings recalled Svechnikov from the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins under emergency conditions because of the injury to Frans Nielsen, whom Blashill said is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

Svechnikov, 21, suffered an injury in training camp that kept him out of preseason games and set him back in his quest to make the Wings.

When he got healthy, Svechnikov had a slow start, with only two goals and three assists in his first 27 games for the Griffins.

"I came out in the season kind of with an injury but I don't want to make any excuse," Svechnikov said. "I just wasn't good enough. I was kind of struggling for myself and I was trying to find a way to get off from that time. I think it's all right to go through it. I learned a lot about it so it's been good now."

From Dec. 30 to the present, Svechnikov has five goals and 12 assists in 25 games.

In his rookie season last year, Svechnikov had 20 goals and 31 assists in 74 games, finishing third on the team in points behind Matt Lobito's 56 and Ben Street's 55.

"I think sometimes confidence is a big factor in people's success," Blashill said. "Last year he had a real good year on a real good team. I think he was (third) on the team in scoring as a rookie. That's a heck of a year. For whatever reason he was slow out of the gates this year. I know Ken (Holland) was over about two weeks ago, thought he was excellent. Sometimes when you struggle, you lose some opportunities and you lose some confidence. I assume as he's gone along he's built that back up. It'll be a good opportunity for him."

Once the physical issue was behind him, it was more of a mental thing Svechnikov had to fight through.

"I think I was worried about everything, I was struggling and then just put pressure on myself a little bit." Svechnikov said. "I just let it go, tried to relax myself and don't push myself. I start doing that and things started going in my way. I realized it and start pushing myself more and more. I was doing that before but like I said, I just realized I don't have to worry about something like that."

Blashill said that will be Svechnikov's challenge moving forward since his work ethic is never in question.

"He's got extremely great work ethic," Blashill said. "Dylan, Marty Frk, guys like that that do it away from the ice, do it on the ice. There's no question about his drive. I think the biggest thing is he wants to be great, he's extremely hard on himself. I think that's the balance in guys that have that self-accountability, it's a great thing but you got to balance it with being too hard on yourself and letting things go.

"At the beginning of the year when things weren't going great he was probably too hard on himself. He's got to learn to make sure he's accountable, look in the mirror, but then also let it go and move onto the next play and hopefully that's something that he can get better at as he matures as a young guy."

Blashill had Svechnikov on a line with Andreas Athanasiou and Justin Abdelkader during the team's morning skate.

"It gives a pretty good skill combination there with Double-A," Blashill said. "Obviously, Double-A is moving to center with the injury to Frans. Abby gives them some veteran presence, so we'll see how it goes. I'll be fluid with the lines tonight. I won't be static. We'll have to see how the game goes."

Athanasiou welcomed the opportunity to play with the 6-foot-3, 208-pound forward.

"He's obviously got a good set of skill on him," Athanasiou said. "He can stick-handle the puck well, he can really shoot the puck. I think anytime he gets into that open area and you can get him the puck, there's a good chance with his shot it's going to go in."

Svechnikov said he was looking forward to playing with the lightning-quick Athanasiou.

"That will be probably amazing," Svechnikov said. "It's fun always to have speed on the line, especially Double-A, we all know how much speed he have. I'm sure it's going to be fun."

Svechnikov had a chance to play two games with the Wings at the end of last season, even scoring the shootout winner in the first one.

"I think it's huge," Svechnikov said. "I feel very comfortable with that, having a chance last year and coming now, knowing every single one now on the team, especially trainers and the guys. It means a lot and I'm very comfortable."

Although Svechnikov said he hasn't been told anything about how long he should expect to be in Detroit, indications are the team wants to give him more of a look than he had last season.

"It's a way better evaluation if you can look at somebody over a course of 10 games or 12 games or eight games than one game," Blashill said. "One game can be a tough thing, a tricky thing. Sometimes guys play great but you don't see all the negatives at times and sometimes guys don't play great. I would say Jared (Coreau) had a tough game the other night, it doesn't mean his next game is not going to be real good. You should never judge small sample size. You want as big a sample size as you can. I think for him personally, it allows him not to have that fear that the next mistake he's going to be send back down and for us is gives us a bigger sample size to make a decision."

Svechnikov said he wants to play his game and not overthink things but he believes he can be an effective NHL player.

"I think I can be really strong in the O-zone and I think I can be offensive player, try to score some goals and obviously be defensively responsible," Svechnikov said. "But I like to score goals and try to do that."

One of the reasons the Wings traded Tatar was to open up opportunities for guys like Svechnikov, for whom the Wings have high hopes.

"We hope he develops into a real strong power forward that can add offensive punch," Blashill said. "He's a big, thick body. He's not 6-6 but he's hard on the puck, he's strong on the puck, has a good skill set. When he first came into pro, my take on him was he was real interested in making great plays instead of necessarily what it takes to score a goal. It was a lot about pretty plays, in my opinion. Almost the opposite from Tyler Bertuzzi.

"I think over time he's learned how to use that skill in a more efficient manner, in that it's not necessarily how pretty the play is, it's how effective the play is. I think as he learns that he can hopefully become a real good power forward."

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