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Richards out; Smith, Tatar in

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist is the team's current iron man, having played in 172 consecutive games. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT -- The Red Wings will be without a player Friday in Buffalo but not because of injury or illness.

Brad Richards will miss the game against the Sabres as his grandfather has died and he will be at the funeral with his family.

Richards, who played Wednesday night against the St. Louis Blues, did not practice Thursday.

"Unfortunate, for sure," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "Those are things that unfortunately you have to go through in life. So it’s good he’s going to get a chance to be with his family."

Richards is expected back in time for Saturday's home game against the Anaheim Ducks.

Brendan Smith did not practice Thursday but should be good enough to play in Buffalo.

"We expect Smith to play tomorrow," Blashill said. "Maintenance day, sore, it’s that time of the year they get bumps and bruises. He needed a day to rest but we expect him to play tomorrow."

Smith took a shot to the throat when St. Louis' Patrik Berglund high-sticked him midway through the second period but remained in the game.

Tomas Tatar, who was a late scratch before the Blues game due to illness, practiced Thursday and is likely to play in Buffalo.

"We expect Tats to be ready tomorrow but he didn't feel great today," Blashill said. "He felt fine."

Tatar is tied with Dylan Larkin for the team lead in goals with 14.

LINES CHANGING AGAIN: The Wings are still searching for the right line combinations as they look for more 5-on-5 scoring.

In practice Thursday, Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader were reunited with Larkin.

"We wanted to see it today in practice, so I’m not saying it’s 100 percent," Blashill said. "We wanted to evaluate it today and see where it was at. Just trying to look for line combinations. Obviously, the time they spent together as a line they had a lot of success and it’s a line we think can be real productive."

Pavel Datsyuk was with Darren Helm and Gustav Nyquist.

Although Nyquist has not played a lot with Datsyuk, it is not all that different from playing with Zetterberg.

"They’re similar, they’re both great players, you know, you want them to have the puck as much as possible, but at the same time for me you want to try and play my own style too, and kind of make my plays as well," Nyquist said. "But obviously, playing with them you try and get open because you have to be ready for a pass because it can come at any time. So obviously great players and it will be fun to play with him."

Blashill said there was another reason for that change.

"It also allows us to roll into power-play units a little easier, when you have power-play units with guys on three or four lines it makes it real hard in the game and one of the lines is going to be tired, so that was also one of the reasons we ended up with Pav with Nyquie," Blashill said.

Riley Sheahan centered Tatar and Tomas Jurco while Luke Glendening centered Teemu Pulkkinen and Joakim Andersson.

"There’s chemistry involved in success with lines," Blashill said. "But when you’re not scoring sometimes you got to keep looking for answers. You don’t want to be in a constant search for answers. For me it has to make sense, it can’t just be a jumbled mess just to try it. I think the other thing is when you construct a line, it’s easy to think just put these three skilled players together and they’ll be great. As we see every night and it’s been well-documented in the NHL you have to go to the net and have to have net presence, so you have to have someone on the line that excels at that."

IRON MEN: After Drew Miller went down Dec. 3 with a broken jaw, his team-high iron man streak of 190 consecutive games played ended.

Wednesday night, Tatar's streak of 162 straight games played came to an end because of illness.

The current iron man streak on the team belongs to Nyquist, which currently stands at 172 games.

1,400TH GAME: When the Wings play the Ducks Saturday, it will mark the 1,400th regular-season game at Joe Louis Arena.

Their record in that time is 800-411-119-69 (W-L-T-OTL).

BY THE NUMBERS: With his goal Wednesday night, Zetterberg moved into a tie for eighth place with Thomas Steen on the NHL's all-time points list for Swedish-born players.

Zetterberg has 304 goals and 513 assist for 817 points in 882 games played. Steen had 264 goals and 553 assists in 950 games.

Ironically, Zetterberg's goal came against the Blues, the team that Steen's son, Alexander, plays for.

MRAZEK BACK IN NET: Blashill said Petr Mrazek would start in goal Friday in Buffalo.

The 2-1 loss to the Blues Wednesday was Mrazek's first in regulation since Dec. 31.

Blashill said he has not yet decided if Mrazek or Jimmy Howard will start Saturday at home against the Ducks.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Darren Helm turned 29 Thursday.

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