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Notes: Zadina heating up, still needs more time in AHL

Wings hoping Athanasiou could be ready to play by Friday

by Dana Wakiji and Arthur J. Regner @Dwakiji and @ArthurJRegner /

DETROIT -- While defenseman Dennis Cholowski and forward Michael Rasmussen are starting to settle into life with the Red Wings, forward Filip Zadina is getting acclimated to his first season in professional hockey across the state.

Zadina, Detroit's first-round pick, sixth overall, in the 2018 NHL Draft, was naturally disappointed when the Wings elected to send him to the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins at the end of the preseason.

There's a learning curve for any player in his first professional season, whether that's in the AHL or the NHL, and Zadina is still working through that.

In Sunday night's game in Cleveland against the Monsters, Zadina scored twice, his first two goals since scoring two in the team's home opener Oct. 12.

"I was real happy to see him on the scoresheet," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "I think confidence is one of the biggest factors because of how close everyone is in success. For him to score can only feed that confidence. So I think it's a great thing. I haven't talked to Ben (Simon, Griffins coach) this morning but hopefully he did it with playing a real good game, so you can point to a correlation of playing real good hockey and scoring. But certainly scoring can help confidence."

Zadina has four goals, three assists and is minus-6 in 11 games with the Griffins.

"Honestly, he's got a long way to go, the maturity part in the game to make sure when he's not scoring that he's still a real complete player," Blashill said. "I think what happens … he hasn't scored tons down there and when you don't score all the sudden you probably start cheating for offense, similar to what happened to us through that stretch in Montreal and Boston. The player has to realize he's got to play the right way and the points will come from playing good defense. I just think it's a maturation process and we're certainly not in any rush as an organization, we want to do what's best for him in his development and right now that's to let him stay down there and keep working."

Although Blashill knows the fans are eager to Zadina playing for the Red Wings, he also wants what is best for Zadina's long-term development.

Blashill said that would be a decision that he and general manager Ken Holland would make when the time is right.

"For me personally, it would be when he's dominating the level that he's at," Blashill said. "I don't think there's any reason to have a young guy come up if he's not yet dominating the level. We've tried hard not to do that because generally that doesn't work out. Dominate the level you're at, once you're dominating the level, we like to use the words 'look like you don't belong.' When those guys go watch him or if I'm able to go watch him, if he looks like he doesn't belong, he's that much better than everybody else on the ice, that's when he should come up. When's that going to be? Who knows? That's just the question you can't answer."

Recent examples of this came with Anthony Mantha and before that, Gustav Nyquist.

In the 2016-17 season, Mantha was sent down to Grand Rapids and had eight goals and two assists in 10 games before getting called up to Detroit.

In the 2013-14 season, Nyquist had seven goals and 14 assists in 15 games before he got called up.

ABDELKADER ADAPTS TO WINGS' NEEDS: Justin Abdelkader has been a bit of a chameleon during his 12 seasons with the Red Wings.

As a collegian at Michigan State (2005-06 through 2007-08), Abdelkader was a solid two-way player who scored the game-winning goal in the 2007 National Championship game against Boston College, tallying with just 18.9 seconds left to give the Spartans the national championship.

He was drafted by the Wings in the second round, 42nd overall, in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft and Detroit's hierarchy attended virtually every MSU home game when Abdelkader was with the Spartans.

After spending some time with the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins (2008-09 through 2009-10) with occasional spells in Detroit -- he played in 54 games for the Wings over a three-year period -- Abdelkader became a full-time Wings forward in 2010-11 and established himself as one of the team's most versatile players.

Detroit's alternate captain has played on all four lines, kills penalties, is net-front on the power play and you would think if the Wings were in a pinch, he could patrol the blue line for a shift or two.

"You come into the league, you have to adapt to roles. I came in as a fourth-line player, playing six-to-eight minutes a game where you're used to playing in the American League or college 20 minutes a game, so it is adapting," Abdelkader said after Monday's practice at the BELFOR Training Center. "I was a center my whole career and then I moved to wing for the first three, four years with Detroit and then I had the opportunity to play with, whether it was Pav (Pavel Datsyuk) or Z (Henrik Zettertberg), or whoever it was. I watched Homer (Tomas Holmstrom) for a lot of years, watched how he played and I got the opportunity to try and make the most of it.

"I've adapted to whatever needs to be done, whether it's been with skill guys or not as skilled guys. I've been the forechecker or the net-front guy or a checking role, shutdown role, so I'm just trying to play my game and if it fits more of a defense role, make sure I'm smart on pucks and when you're going against top lines, make sure you don't give them chances."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "Every game is huge. We need that next game mentality and get as many points as we can especially here at home." #RedWings #VANvsDET More from Justin Abdelkader:

In 14 games this season, Abdelkader has two goals among his three points, is minus-4 with an average ice time of 15:35 per game.

He's not happy with his numbers, but he's aware the season is still early and with nine of their 13 games at Little Caesars Arena in November, he feels the Wings must play with urgency.

"It's huge, every game is huge, each game," Abdelkader said. "We cannot look 10 games down the road, we got (to have) the next-game mentality. We have to get as many points as we can, especially here at home and try to play as much to our identity as we can."

INJURY UPDATE: Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson and forward Andreas Athanasiou, plus forward Thomas Vanek, did not practice Monday.

Ericsson has been characterized as week-to-week and Vanek is considered out for 2-4 weeks, but Athanasiou could be available sooner.

"He skated beforehand today," Blashill said. "We're hoping to get him into a full practice Wednesday, Thursday and have him ready for Friday. Obviously, he's got to get through those two practices before we know for sure."

Frans Nielsen did practice fully Monday after missing the last three games but has not been cleared yet.

Blashill said whether Nielsen can play against the Vancouver Canucks would be determined Tuesday.

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