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Notes: Wings look to continue recent winning ways

Smith back with team for first NHL road game; Bernier expected to start

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

ANAHEIM -- Oddly enough, the last time the Red Wings faced the Anaheim Ducks, they were on a two-game winning streak and feeling good about themselves.

That was at the start of the season after Detroit beat Nashville on the road in the season opener and Dallas in the home opener.

Then the Ducks came to town Oct. 8 and left Little Caesars Arena with a 3-1 victory.

"Ironically, that was a game that by all measures we should have won; certainly the first two periods we were the better team, the third period they were the better team," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "We lost the game. They're a good team, they've been through like most teams, ups and downs. They forecheck hard, their D are hard down the walls on the forecheck, they're a good O-zone team, they do a little different in terms of their neutral zone regroup than most teams in the league. So we got to be aware of that.

"The biggest thing is our own game, we just got to play great hockey, we got to make sure we're fast out of our end, fast through the neutral zone with lots of speed, so we can be on top of them and have good forecheck presence and play in the O-zone."

The Wings come into Anaheim's Honda Center on a two-game winning streak, having beaten the Boston Bruins last Friday and the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday.

"I think we have understood you play good hockey, you give yourself a chance to win," Blashill said. "I think probably where the confidence matters the most right now for us is on our specialty teams. I think both of them feel better about themselves than they did a couple games ago, but you got to be relentless and you got to keep going back out and proving it. You build confidence with good hockey and you build confidence with winning, so let's find a way to win a hockey game tonight."

In those two victories over the Bruins and Golden Knights, the Wings scored three power-play goals, two by newly acquired forward Robby Fabbri and one by Andreas Athanasiou.

"Just puck movement and using each other," defenseman Dennis Cholowski said of the man-advantage improvement. "We've been slinging the puck around pretty well and also getting the puck to the net with traffic in front is big. We definitely have the talent and skilled guys to do it, we just have to play the right way and continue to get the puck to the net and work hard."

The Ducks have lost their last three home games, one in overtime to the Chicago Blackhawks and the last two in regulation to the Minnesota Wild and Edmonton Oilers.

However, the Ducks have won three of the last four against the Wings and three straight against them at home.

"Good team, always been a big, physical team, they have some skill, too," Cholowski said. "They also have some younger guys that I recognize names, so it should be a fun night and competitive game."

SMITH BACK WITH WINGS: While it's never optimal to have a player get injured, it always means there's an opportunity for someone else.

When Justin Abdelkader blocked a shot late in the third period against the Golden Knights, he suffered a mid-body injury that is expected to keep him out at least three weeks.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: .@givanismith24 back in the mix. #LGRW

So the Wings recalled Givani Smith from the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins. Smith played three games with the Wings from Oct. 25-29, including his NHL debut on Oct. 25 against the Buffalo Sabres.

"Yeah, it's obviously tough to see one of the guys, especially one of your own guys, go down," Smith said after the morning skate at Anaheim's Honda Center. "It's a good opportunity to showcase my skills here. Just go out there and play hockey."

Cholowski, who was drafted in 2016 along with Smith and has roomed with him at development camp, is happy to see him back.

"So nice to see him. He's one of my better friends," Cholowski said. "Proud of him that he's back up and it's good to see him."

During Smith's earlier stint in Detroit, Blashill had said that Smith had earned the coaches' trust through his play.

"He's done a good job in his role," Blashill said. "He's learned how to play within himself really well. He's calmed his game down through the neutral zone where he skates with the puck, he gets it in behind, he does what he does best, which is forecheck, be strong in the O-zone, get to the net, have a net presence and then be physical and hard to play against and he's done all those things pretty well for us, both going back to exhibition here and really going back to the end of last year for Grand Rapids, the exhibition season for us and the beginning of the season, either with us or Grand Rapids. So we're confident to put him in the lineup and he'll have a good impact for us."

Smith said he's a little worse for the wear than the last time he was with the team as he took a puck to the face in his last game with the Griffins.

"A little neutral-zone play. The puck just came up and hit me right in the mouth," Smith said. "Didn't lose any teeth, so that's a good thing."

Now Smith is looking for even better things as he gets in his first road game in the NHL.

"I got to experience one win. It felt pretty nice, winning at home," Smith said. "To win my first game on the road would be pretty cool for me and also for the team, too."

BERNIER EXPECTED TO START: Jonathan Bernier was in the starter's net during the morning skate.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Morning work ������#DETvsANA #LGRW

He has won each of his last two starts and is 8-2-2 with a 1.93 goals-against average, .936 save percentage and one shutout in 12 games against the Ducks, the team he played for during the 2016-17 season.

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