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Notes: Ott ready to face former team in St. Louis

Justin Abdelkader skates but status remains up in the air

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT - Steve Ott has been through this before but it's always a little strange facing your former team for the first time.


Ott spent the last three seasons with the St. Louis Blues, the Red Wings' opponent Thursday night. 

"It's always awkward playing your old team that first time," Ott said. "Like anybody, if it's a brotherhood you had back in the day or a friendship, you want to be on the good side of the game. I think everybody on that team knows how I play and know what I do and would be disappointed if I didn't play that way for sure."


Ott is known as a player who likes to play a tough, gritty game and make life difficult for his opponents.


Is that easier when you know your opponents personally?


"It depends," Ott said. "I think when you battle hard and they expect it, I had a lot of bad blood with a lot of the St. Louis guys before I got there and became some of my closest friends I have ever had in the league. I'm definitely going to try and play my way. There's going to be definitely no let off."


Ott recorded his first assist with the Wings in Tuesday's win over Carolina and had a shorthanded breakaway. He also stepped in when Viktor Stalberg hit Mike Green from behind.


Justin Abdelkader said he's enjoyed getting to know Ott this season.


"He's a guy that is a great guy to have in the room," Abdelkader said. "He's talking a lot. I think he brings an element of grit and physicality. We saw it there on (Andreas Athanasiou's) goal, him and (Luke Glendening) just kind of grinding it in the corner. He went out and cleared out in front and had a good net-front presence. Yeah, he's a guy that can do it all for you, a veteran player that's had a lot of experiences and can help everyone in here."


While there's a league-wide emphasis on young players, there is a need for veterans like Ott.


"I've been asked why scoring is up in the league, part of the reason is there's some immaturity in young guys' games at times," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "Guys that have been around know how to play, know how to keep leads, know to keep the puck moving in the right direction. They also, with that line in particular, they relish their role. There's lots of guys that don't want that role, they're not happy when they're in that role. Team chemistry isn't good when they're in that role. Our team chemistry has been really good because they relish their role and I think that's real important."


Glendening and Drew Miller have played together for a while but Ott seemed to fit right in when he joined them during the preseason.


Although Ott was a healthy scratch for three games, the chemistry remains.


"Our line just continues to feed off each other," Ott said. "All three of us bring something different to the game. Glennie is an extremely hard working player, like I said in training camp, he's a workhorse. And you have Millsie, he's a real heady player, he's smart, got a great stick all the time and obviously how I play with my style. You add us three together and I think we're coming together like we were in training camp. We're dominating in the offensive zone on grind time and try and build that momentum for the right way to play the game for the other lines to watch and have success as well."


ABDELKADER SKATES: Abdelkader participated in Tuesday's morning skate and in Wednesday's practice at Joe Louis Arena but his status remains up in the air.


"I feel pretty good," Abdelkader said. "Just a little injury. It's kind of been nagging for about a week. It started the home opener and it was just kind of one of those things that I thought with some rest I could still play through. It just came to a point where I needed some time off."


Abdelkader has missed the last two games but has not been ruled out for Thursday's game in St. Louis.


"He skated today," Blashill said. "Part of it is how it reacts. Talk to the training staff and see. Nothing as of yet, still day-to-day."


Abdelkader does not have to rush back as the team has won both of the games he missed.


"It's always good to see, especially now it's been five in a row for us," Abdelkader said. "We're playing some good hockey, obviously. We have some things we need to correct but it's been a good five games since the first two. Hopefully we can just keep it rolling here."


CHALLENGE OF PLAYING ST. LOUIS: The Wings used to play the Blues all the time when both teams were in the Western Conference.


The Blues are currently third in the West with nine points. Only the Edmonton Oilers have more points with 10.


"It's a great challenge," Blashill said. "I think we've taken real steps forward over the last three games but it's a relentless league. We talk about taking ten thousand steps forward through the year, you got to keep moving forward, so I think it'll be a great challenge for us. I love to be able to measure ourselves against the best and see where we stand, so we'll get a chance to prove where we stand as of tomorrow."


The Wings' special teams will have to be on point as the Blues are ranked seventh on the power play at 25.9 percent and fifth on the penalty kill at 91.3 percent.


"When I was in St. Louis the power play was clicking and I was the guy on the other of it penalty killing and watching it in practice and I know how well they can move the puck," Ott said. "They have some really high-end guys, some big time goal scorers with (Vladimir) Tarasenko and (Alexander) Steen and (Kevin) Shattenkirk, high-end power play guys. That's what they get paid to do. They can bring it."


All five of Shattenkirk's points (two goals, three assists) have come on the power play. 


Shattenkirk is tied with Philadelphia's Claude Giroux, Buffalo's Rasmus Ristolainen and Toronto's William Nylander for most power-play points.


The Wings are 12th on the power play at 22.2 percent and 21st on the penalty kill at 76.9 percent.


"For us, we've been building, working hard with (Doug Houda) on the penalty kill on a daily basis to try and improve it," Ott said. "I think it's getting there, but it's a building process. We dug ourselves a little bit of a hole on the penalty kill thing, but things are starting to turn the right way, getting our roots down, get the familiarity and chemistry and penalty kill needs."


A few of those goals have come when the Wings were at a two-man disadvantage.


"I think we've given up a 4-on-3, a 5-on-3, maybe another 5-on-3," Miller said. "So I think that's three goals right there that I think those are tough ones to kill. Obviously we want to be better on the penalty kill but those are some of the goals that go in that are tough on your stats. But I think that we will kind of get our 4-on-3, 5-on-3 straightened out. I think a lot of positives for our penalty kill right now."

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