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Notes: Red Wings look at different power-play options

Steve Ott and Andreas Athanasiou both worked on the power play; Darren Helm skates with the team

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

ANAHEIM - When things aren't working, sometimes you have to try something completely different.

The Wings traveled to California Monday night and practiced at Anaheim's Honda Center Tuesday afternoon.

A lot of that work was devoted to the power play, still 30th in the league at 11.7 percent.

The power play has struggled even more on the road, with only two goals in 53 chances, the last coming when Thomas Vanek scored in the first period against the New York Rangers Oct. 19.

Wings coach Jeff Blashill had Steve Ott as the net-front presence on the unit with Tomas Tatar, Henrik Zetterberg, Anthony Mantha and Niklas Kronwall.

The other unit had Gustav Nyquist, Frans Nielsen, Dylan Larkin, Vanek and Andreas Athanasiou.

"I used today's practice to look at a few different guys," Blashill said. "It doesn't mean that's what we'll go with. I just decided to give it a little different look and see how it is."

Blashill said while people point to the Wings' lack of shots, he said that is because they haven't been able to spend enough time in the offensive zone.

"There's two reasons for that in my mind," Blashill said. "One is we don't retrieve enough pucks, so (Ott) can certainly help with retrieval of pucks. The other is the break-in. Those are two things we've got to make sure we do a better job of."

Although Ott has not been used on the power play yet this season, it's something he has done before.

"I was on it my whole career," Ott said. "It was last two years that I haven't been on it, in St. Louis I was actually spotted in once in a while because we had a lot of top-ranked power plays in St. Louis for a lot of years. Prior to that, that was my main role."

In his career, Ott has 28 power-play goals and 28 power-play assists.

"The big key and the reason I would be on there is to try to retrieve pucks and get pucks in the hands of players that make plays," Ott said. "Sacrifice in front of the net, doing anything right now. We need to find ways to generate more momentum."

During the 2009-10 season with the Dallas Stars, Ott scored eight power-play goals.

Ott says he has a penalty-kill mindset so he knows what makes a power play effective.

"If you're one and done, it goes straight down the ice, the penalty kill continues to generate momentum," Ott said. "But if you take a shot and then you retrieve the puck and get another opportunity, you continue to get momentum and you get percentage-based shots towards the net, that's when you start really deteriorating that penalty kill and try to play without the puck a little bit better than what we have. Right now it's all of us, it's not one guy, it's not me going on there. I'm not the answer by any means, it's all of us collectively have to continue to get better."

That other unit has five forwards, which is somewhat different.

"I think with the speed, especially on the entry, that would help for sure," Blashill said. "That's an area where AA has helped the power play in the past, with his speed on the entry. I don't know if I'm going to stay with the five forwards or not. Ultimately, I don't think it matters what position you play but it does matter the responsibility level. So we'll see. We'll make a decision tomorrow."

HELM SKATES: Although he is still considered to be a couple of weeks away from playing, Darren Helm made the California trip with the Wings and practiced with them Tuesday at the Honda Center.

"I guess it's the first day I was bumping around," Helm said. "I felt OK, a little sore sometimes. It was a good step in the right direction."

Helm did not make the last trip with the team but continued to skate on his own.

"I didn't go on that trip because I didn't think there would be great opportunity to get on the ice and do what I wanted to," Helm said. "I skated twice at the Joe, twice at (Grosse Pointe Woods' University) Liggett when you guys were gone. I saw a couple other people from our team that did rehab and it worked out. I haven't really stopped. There have been no real setbacks, just a tough process right now."

Helm was originally injured Nov. 15 when Tampa Bay's Nikita Nesterov upended him and Helm landed on his left shoulder.

Helm has missed the last 21 games.

Helm said his range of motion is coming along.

"It's getting better and better," Helm said. "It's just slow. It feels like it's still trying to protect my shoulder and just trying I feel like the injury itself is pretty good just everything around it, my body myself is a little scared to get going. I'm just trying to get her going, trying to wake her up."

Unfortunately for Helm, he has been through serious injuries before so he knows the drill when it comes to rehabilitating them.

"Hopefully we have a chance to really test it in a game, but I'm trying everything I can," Helm said. "It's been a tough process. I'm doing everything I can."

GREEN DOES NOT SKATE: Defenseman Mike Green did not participate in practice Tuesday.

"Mike will be back," Blashill said. "He will practice with us this week. It's just part of his healing process, I guess you'd say."

Blashill said the earliest Green would play is next Tuesday in Chicago.

350 FOR MILLER: Vancouver Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller, brother of the Wings' Drew, made 24 saves in a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche Monday to win his 350th career game.

Miller is the 21st goaltender to achieve that mark and just the third U.S.-born goalie to do so.

John Vanbiesbrouck (374 wins) and Tom Barrasso (369) are the others.

"I've got lots of respect for Ryan as a player," Blashill said. "I know when he was at Michigan State the word was that he wouldn't let goals in during practice, ever. They would count the number of goals he would give up in practice. It's amazing. That just shows you one, his work ethic on a daily basis. Two, he's been an elite goalie for a long time. I remember when he was playing for the Soo Indians in the North American League. He's been a heck of a goalie for a long time. That's good for him."

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