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Notes: Wings finally have some practice time before next game

Abdelkader practices; Zadina and Hirose sent to AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

DETROIT -- The Red Wings haven't had this much time to practice since the first week of the season.

After playing Monday night against the New York Islanders, the Wings don't have a game until they host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.

That enabled the team to spend more than an hour at both the BELFOR Training Center and on the main ice sheet at Little Caesars Arena for Tuesday's practice.

"I got to watch it, I don't want to go too, too long, but what it does afford us a little bit is to kind of reset the foundation, the things that are important to us," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "There's a couple areas we got to make sure we're better in. We made some tweaks in our D-zone, so we got to make sure we get that down straight so guys can play without thinking.

"What you try to do in training camp is build great habits, so as you go through the season and you don't have much practice time, which we haven't had at all, that guys can play without thinking, meaning you've built those habits, where they just play and react the right way. So we got to rebuild those and sharpen up anything we got to sharpen up."

After Monday's loss, Darren Helm mentioned that the players had to still try to have some fun even through the adversity they were having in the 10-game winless skid (0-8-2).

"It's not easy when you're losing every night to come in with a good attitude," Luke Glendening said. "Maybe this four days will be good for us in terms of just we don't have any games so if we can have some fun on the ice and have some fun together, hopefully have a renewed energy when we play on Saturday."

The practice time also allows players who weren't part of training camp like Alex Biega, Robby Fabbri, Brendan Perlini and Eric Comrie to be able to really get the systems down so they can play without thinking.

"We've had a number of injuries, so we've had lots of different people in here in and out," Blashill said. "We've made some trades, so then you have different people in and out, and you lose some of that continuity. That's the reality. When I coached in the American League, it was an every-game type challenge. Sometimes you have so many people in and out you lose continuity. So let's work this week to try to get that continuity back."

When there's too much thinking on the ice, that slows players down and takes away the speed of the Wings, which can be one of their strengths.

"We were keeping the puck out of our net a little more and putting the puck in theirs when it really boils down to it," Glendening said of the early-season success. "We were playing fast. I think that was the biggest thing. We've slowed ourselves down here a bit. Last night I thought we played better but we're still on the wrong side of the scoreboard. You can't just keep taking moral victories. We need to start winning games here. Like I said, hopefully we'll come back with a renewed energy on Saturday."

ROSTER MOVES: After practice, the Wings assigned forwards Filip Zadina and Taro Hirose to the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: The #RedWings today assigned forwards Filip Zadina and Taro Hirose to the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins. pic.twitter.com/uvTJf7Djzt

The Griffins have home games Wednesday and Friday against the Chicago Wolves and Rockford IceHogs, respectively, so that allows those two players to get a couple of games in.

If needed, one or both could return before the Penguins game.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Today ������ #GivingTuesday https://t.co/hInFY8yQ6S

INJURY UPDATES: There was a new but familiar face at practice Tuesday -- forward Justin Abdelkader.

Abdelkader has been out the last 11 games with an upper-body injury he suffered blocking a shot Nov. 10 against the Vegas Golden Knights.

"He's getting closer for sure," Blashill said. "Today was the first time he skated with the team. He wasn't necessarily full but it was closer. I'm hoping he can go closer to full practice tomorrow. So if he can go full practice tomorrow, full practice on Friday, he'd be potential at some point over the next week, whether it's Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday, at some point."

Although he did not do the battle drills, Abdelkader did some work with the penalty-kill units.

"For sure to have his leadership and the style of play he brings to our team, anytime you can get a guy like him back in your lineup it's great," Glendening said of his fellow alternate captain.

Forward Anthony Mantha, who has missed the last five games with a lower-body injury suffered in the first period in New Jersey on Nov. 23, is still a ways away.

"I would just say he's not on the ice yet and once he's on the ice it's going to take him a little bit," Blashill said. "You'll know more once he gets on the ice."

The same thing applies to goaltender Jimmy Howard, who was hurt in the first period against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 27.

"I get reports but I'm worried about the guys that are on the ice first and foremost," Blashill said. "Once we get Jimmy on the ice, once he's healthy enough to be on the ice, then we'll be able to evaluate how close he is."

Including defensemen Danny DeKeyser and Trevor Daley, the Wings have 118 total man-games lost to injury.

"I think injuries are part of the game and you just gotta try to keep going forward," Glendening said. "We miss the guys who are out for sure. They're big part of this team but we gotta try to pick up their slack while they're out and just keep working. We'll welcome them back with open arms when they're ready but until then, we gotta keep battling."

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