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Notes: Red Wings give Mitch Callahan a second look

Goaltender Jimmy Howard getting close to another rehabilitation stint in Grand Rapids

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

CALGARY - It won't be the first time for Mitch Callahan but it will probably feel like it.

Callahan, 25, played in his only NHL game on March 25, 2014, at Columbus, with 13 shifts in 9:01.

On Friday, Callahan will play in his second NHL game, this time at Calgary.

"It happened three years ago, so I'm still pretty nervous but I'm more excited than nervous," Callahan said. "My debut I was really nervous and kind of like, 'Don't make a mistake.' But now I'm more excited more than anything."

The Red Wings originally drafted Callahan with their sixth round pick, 180th overall, in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

"When Mitch plays his best hockey, first of all he's real smart and strong on the wall and goes to the net hard, he's physical, not in the sense he's a big hitter, but in a sense of making sure he separates guys from the puck and he's a pain in the neck to play against," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "We're hoping he can bring that to us."

Callahan had 14 goals, 22 assists and was plus-1 with the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins. "I think the one thing that gets missed is Mitch's hockey smarts are real good and he's got good hands and he's an excellent tipper so he's got offensive ability," Blashill said. "He's had a really good career in the American League and he's just wanted an opportunity. He's a guy that doesn't necessarily have the speed that's a classic NHLer. Until you put him in the games you don't know if that really matters. Can he make up for it in the American League with his savviness, his smarts, his competitiveness and we're hoping so. He's done that in the American League.

"When I first saw him I thought he was going to be an OK player and he's proved me wrong in the American League and know he has a chance to come up here and prove us wrong that he should have had an opportunity earlier so we'll see."

After trading Steve Ott to Montreal Tuesday night and Thomas Vanek to Florida Wednesday morning, the team needed another forward.

Blashill explained why the team opted for Callahan over Tyler Bertuzzi, who played in seven games with the Wings earlier this season, and Evgeny Svechnikov, who is having a nice rookie season in the AHL.

"They're at different stages of their development," Blashill said. "I think the one thing we're trying to avoid with some of the younger players is the roller-coaster of coming up and going down, coming up and going down. I don't know how long this recall will be, we'll see. We've already done it once to Tyler and we felt it felt it best to leave Tyler where he is at and continue to develop. I watched him last Saturday and I think him and Svech are both heading in the right direction and I think one of the worst things you can do is bring a guy like that up here that's starting to have confidence and have them come up here and not play enough and have him lose his confidence. Mitch is older. Mitch gives us a chance to see him. He's a real hard one to predict so this gives us a chance to see him."

In 33 games with the Griffins, Bertuzzi, 22, has nine goals, 17 assists and is plus-10.

Svechnikov, 20, has 15 goals, 17 assists and is plus-3 in 53 games.

After watching the Griffins play the other day, Blashill has seen improvement in Svechnikov.

"I thought Svech has taken a step," Blashill said. "I thought he was more impactful than he had been earlier in the year. He looks like he's improved in a lot of different areas. My understanding in talking to (Griffins coach) Todd Nelson is he's got a real desire and a real will to get better. I think guys like that generally get better. What his ceiling is we'll find out, but he seems to be heading in the right direction."

During the Wings practice at Calgary's Winsport Arena, Callahan was on a line with Drew Miller and Luke Glendening.

TRADE TALK: Blashill understands that Vanek, Ott and defenseman Brendan Smith will be tough to replace but it does open up more opportunities for others.

"They were all three important pieces to us and all three guys I thought were real good teammates and did a real good job in the locker room so I certainly wish them the best of luck," Blashill said. "I also know and I've said this tons, we've got lots of good players are here. We lost some good players, but we've got 20 good ones to play tomorrow night so there will be no excuses whatsoever. We have a good enough team to go in so know we have to go execute at that high level."

During Thursday's practice, Riley Sheahan moved up to the line with Frans Nielsen and Andreas Athanasiou.

"I think there's no question when you play with offensive players like that it puts you in a position to probably produce a little bit more and one you're probably going to get more ice time too," Blashill said. "Part of production is ice time. Part of it is how you play and part of it is who you play with. Those are all things that factor into production. I think he's had chances all year long, but I think he's just been extraordinarily snake-bit, but we're hoping that ends tomorrow."

Sheahan has not scored a goal in 59 games this season.

HOWARD PLAN: Goaltender Jimmy Howard practiced with the team in Calgary and could be ready to get into a game soon.

"We're looking at a rehab stint in GR again," Blashill said. "I'll have more tomorrow. He's heading in the right direction I'd say."

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