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Notes: Ott moves to center; Bertuzzi returns from GR

Ryan Sproul may get another chance to play as Wings travel to Washington, D.C.

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT - The loss of Darren Helm for an extended period of time means other players might have to step into different roles.

One of those players is Steve Ott. During Thursday's practice, Ott centered Tyler Bertuzzi and Drew Miller.

"Steve is somebody who has played a lot of center in his career, especially all the way through the playoffs two years ago in St. Louis," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "He feels real comfortable there so that gives us another option to be able to put him at center."

Ott said he doesn't mind moving from wing to center.

"I've played probably half my games in the NHL at center so quite comfortable at playing in different positions," Ott said. "Obviously I think I have a pretty good line with young Bertuzzi there on the left side and Millsie, who is a real reliable player, on the right."

Although he's played at wing this season, Ott has still been taking some face-offs.

In his career, Ott has won 55.9 percent of his face-offs. This season, he's won 31 of 53 face-offs for a 58.5 percent rate.

Blashill said Ott's role won't change too much, other than a little more defensive responsibility and more face-offs.

"From the past experience of a lot of games, I probably don't run around as much or try to look for big hits in certain situations," Ott said. "If they're there, they're there. I have good guys that cover me but to be honest with you, I'd rather be a reliable centerman, be in the right situations for my teammates, and if the opportunity is there you can take it but you have to be smart as well."

Blashill said he spoke with St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock about Ott before the Wings signed him.

"What Hitch said to me is exactly what he was," Blashill said. "He's a real accountable player, he's good defensively, so you can trust him. He brings the physicality and the irritation that is well documented. But he's also strong on the puck and he brings energy to your locker room. He's been all of those things."

SPROUL'S ROLE: The Wings gave defenseman Niklas Kronwall four days, including Tuesday night's game against Tampa Bay, to rest his knees.

Ryan Sproul got the opportunity to play and scored a power-play goal, his first in the NHL, and assisted on another.

In Thursday's practice, Sproul was paired with Kronwall and practiced on the power play with Mike Green.

"His assets are moving his feet - he's got great feet," Blashill said of Sproul. "His big shot and I think when he's aggressive and assertive he's a real good player. We just need him to stay aggressive and assertive both offensively and defensively. He can push the puck out of your zone, he can create offense by jumping into the play and he needs to keep shooting and be a shot-first mentality. Certainly on the power play he brought that."

Sproul had the second assist on Henrik Zetterberg's game-tying power-play goal.

"I think every game he's played so far has been good," Zetterberg said. "Lately, he's got opportunity to play on the power play and he really took advantage of it, big goal, but even five on five, too the way he can skate, the way he can bring up the puck and create stuff by himself, it's something that we need and he's been playing really well for us."

Sproul has always been good offensively. Blashill said he's seen defensive improvement from him.

"He's worked hard at it," Blashill said. "Physically he's matured and worked hard in the weight room. He's learned how to use his feet as a defensive weapon and close gaps and skate forwards and not have to skate backwards. I think all of those things have improved for sure."

Blashill said the final decision on who will play Friday night will be made tomorrow after seeing how everyone is feeling.

BERTUZZI'S BACK: On Tuesday, the Wings sent Bertuzzi back to the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins.

On Wednesday, Bertuzzi played for the Griffins and had a goal and an assist in a 6-3 victory over the Texas Stars.

After the game, the Wings called Bertuzzi and told him to return to Detroit.

"It's been pretty hectic but it's all worth it," Bertuzzi said. "It's tough for Helmer but I'm excited to get another opportunity. Exciting to be back."

Bertuzzi was able to take some of the momentum he created with the Wings with him to the Griffins.

"I felt good out there," Bertuzzi said. "I played a lot, which was good. I gained some confidence and try and bring it up here."

Blashill was happy to see Bertuzzi's success in the Stars game.

"I think it's great," Blashill said. "We told him when he left here was take this and find out the things you have to be better at but also go down and become a dominant player at some point down there. It wasn't going to happen overnight but I think it's real important to be a dominant player at the level you're at before you can expect to move to the next level. I think (Anthony) Mantha went down and started to show signs of that by the scoring he did and I think Bert needed to take that step, so for him to go and score was real good."

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