EDMONTON – Stephen Weiss could hardly contain his excitement after learning he’d been promoted to the top forward line for tonight’s game against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place.
Since suffering a shoulder injury in mid-December, Weiss has played a lesser role on the Red Wings’ fourth line, averaging approximately 9 ½ minutes of ice time in the past six games.
Tonight, he’ll be reunited with speedy Darren Helm and crafty two-way center Pavel Datsyuk, a line that was very productive in November.
“I haven’t been playing a ton the last few games so it’s tough to do much really,” Weiss said. “In this league it’s hard when you’re (even) playing 20 minutes to produce. So I’m looking forward to the opportunity tonight to play with Pavel and play some more minutes and hopefully have a good game tonight and that can snowball.”
Weiss, as he said then, was living in the moment when he returned to the lineup following a lengthy problematic groin injury in late November. He had four goals and 10 points with a plus-4 rating in his first seven games. But since then, the veteran forward has been limited to a goal and two points with a minus-3 rating in his past eight games.
Hopefully, the ascension to the top line can rekindle Weiss’s productivity as he continues to refine his game on the wing instead of his usual center position.
“I like playing wing. I started right wing, now I’m left wing,” he said. “That’s a little bit of an adjustment first few games but starting to get used to that more. With our system, you end up kind of playing all over the place anyway. You can start out on wing and can end up playing mostly as a center anyway depending on how your shift goes. I’ve enjoyed it.”
Weiss, who has five goals and 12 points in 16 games this season, says offensive potency can be dependent on ice time.
“At the end of the day you got to get on the ice,” he said.
CLICK HERE for the Red Wings' line combinations and defensive pairings for tonight's game against the Oilers at Rexall Place.
POINTS EARNED: Since taking over behind the Oilers’ bench last month, interim coach Todd Nelson – a former assistant to Danton Cole at AHL Grand Rapids in 2002-03 – has rejuvenated an Edmonton team that had lost 15 of 16 games and is last in the Western Conference.
Since gaining exclusive control, Nelson has led the Oilers to six points in four games, which was punctuated by a 5-2 win over the New York Islanders on Sunday.
“The Oilers are an interesting team,” Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “Every time we play against them they’re playing with speed, creativity and they play us tough. I think lately, too, they’re playing a lot better than they did at the start of the year. It’s going to be a challenge for us here tonight, but at the same time we’re looking forward to it because it’s always a high-paced game and we like to play that way too.”
The coaching seems to have pump some life into the Oilers who are 2-1-1 in their past four home games.
“It can help refocus, reenergize and give a sense of purpose again and I think the way they’ve been playing lately that’s part of the reason they’ve been playing so well,” center Luke Glendening said. “Obviously, they have high-end skill, and they probably want to play more of a wide-open game than we do. If we get caught up in that it could be a long night for us, but we have to stick to what we do well.”
Defense - DET
Goals: 1 | Assists: 1 | Pts: 2
Shots: 19 | +/-: 3
Grand Rapids defenseman Xavier Ouellet
and right wing Teemu Pulkkinen
have been selected to play for the Western Conference in the American Hockey League All-Star Classic, which will be held at the Utica Memorial Auditorium in Utica, N.Y. on Jan. 25-26.
The 21-year-old Ouellet, who is currently with the Red Wings in Edmonton, has split the season between the AHL and NHL. In 21 games with the Griffins, he has produced a goal and eight points. Ouellet has also collected a goal and two points in 11 games with the Wings.
The 23-year-old Pulkkinen is tied for the AHL lead with 19 goals and is tied for second with 38 points in 32 games. He currently is riding a seven game goal-scoring streak, marking the second-longest goal streak in Griffins’ history, behind only Donald MacLean’s eight-game streak in 2005-06
Pulkkinen has been held off the score sheet in just eight games this season.