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Notes: Sproul set for season debut, Ott back in

Larkin moved to wing; Blashill offers condolences

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

DETROIT - Ryan Sproul has always admired Mike Green, now he'll get a chance to play in the same game with him.

Wings coach Jeff Blashill said Sproul will play tonight against the Nashville Predators, paired with Brendan Smith.

"I've been looking to put in Ryan for a while here," Blashill said. "He's not had hardly any opportunity to play at the NHL level. He's played one game. He's got a great skill-set, he's a great skater, he can really shoot it. I think when he plays assertively with his feet defensively, meaning gapping tight, ending plays early, he can be a real good defender. He's got to go back and (inaudible, maybe break?) pucks out, he's got to defend well and he's got to beat people up the ice and be dynamic on the power play. It'll be good to see how he does."

That one game was April 13, 2014, against the St. Louis Blues. Sproul played 18:25 and had three shots on goal, two hits and two blocked shots.

"I think the biggest thing tonight is to keep it simple," Sproul said after the morning skate. "I know I can skate, I know I can shoot the puck well and I think they know that too. I need to keep it simple tonight and play a simple game and if the offense comes like it has before, then that's just a plus."

Last season with the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins, Sproul had 12 goals and 23 assists in 75 games.

Seven of those goals came on the power play, which is why Blashill plans to use Sproul on the second power-play unit.

"That's kind of where I work my best, I think," Sproul said. "I think for me it's coming in and making sure that these forwards on the power play feel comfortable with me out there. I'm going to shoot the puck as much as I can. That's one of my assets so make sure I do that."

Sproul has had a front-row seat this season to watch Green, a player he has long admired.

"It helps for sure," Sproul said. "It's been, I think, four or five games that I've watched so you've got guys like Greener out there and watching the way he plays and how poised and stuff that he is with the puck. That's exactly how I want to play so to watch him and watch other D out here, it's extremely nice."

Sproul replaces Xavier Ouellet in the lineup.

"I thought Xavier had three very good games and not obviously the other night (in New York)," Blashill said. "He wasn't alone, there were other guys as well. It's Sproully's second NHL game. To put Sproully in his second NHL game with another guy, Xavier, who has a handful of NHL games, we just felt let's have enough presence in there, guys that have been around the league. Xavier's in the mix with a lot of D. He did real good job for three games. He's just got to keep getter better and executing."

OTHER CHANGES: Steve Ott draws back into the lineup for the first time since the first game of the season.

As he did successfully in the preseason, Ott will play with Luke Glendening and Drew Miller.

"They had real good chemistry in exhibition," Blashill said. "They weren't bad against Tampa, but they weren't great. It just gave me a chance to get (Athanasiou) in there a little bit, but I think that line can have good chemistry and I also think they can give us some good time in the offensive zone. We need more time in the offensive zone. We need more time in the offensive zone. We need more grind time and their line they like to do that. I'm hoping they produce a lot of offensive zone time. I think if they do that they'll have a chance to produce offense."

Ott playing means Andreas Athanasiou will sit tonight.

"He's been fine," Blashill said. "I don't think he's been bad. I think every young player the challenge is you have to grab a hold of it when you get your opportunities and be great. I think he's got better in him. I know he's got better in him. When he gets his next opportunity he's got to make sure he's ready to be better. It comes down to me of just making sure he's winning as many puck battles as possible."

During the morning skate, Blashill also moved Dylan Larkin to wing on a line with Frans Nielsen and Justin Abdelkader.

"I have no issue with the way (Larkin's) played," Blashill said. "I think he's done a good job in face-offs. I think he's done a pretty good job defensively. But he's somebody that the offensive opportunities aren't going for him as much right now. It frees you up a little bit when you play wing to create a little more offense and gives you that speed on the wing. So we'll look at it."

Larkin has one assist in four games this season.

Captain Henrik Zetterberg centered Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan in the morning skate.

CONDOLENCES: Before the morning skate, everyone heard the sad news that Detroit Free Press columnist Drew Sharp had died at the age of 56.

Before taking questions, Blashill offered his condolences.

"I just want to recognize the tragic passing of Drew Sharp and personally pass my condolences along to his family and friends and obviously the friends of ours at the Free Press," Blashill said. "We have a great relationship with all of you at the Free Press and my heart goes out to everybody. Obviously tragic and shocked by the news."

Sharp attended the home opener against the Ottawa Senators.

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