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Notes: Svechnikov to make NHL debut against Ottawa

Wings reassign Axel Holmstrom from Skelleftea AIK to Grand Rapids Griffins

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT - Illness is forcing the Red Wings to raid the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins once again.

Drew Miller will miss Monday night's game against the Ottawa Senators with flu-like symptoms so the Wings recalled Evgeny Svechnikov under emergency conditions.

"I went over to Grand Rapids during our bye week and had an opportunity to see them play and I thought he did a real good job," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "Everything I had heard up to that point was he'd really, really grown as a player throughout the year. He works extremely hard at his game. I thought in training camp he showed some flashes of skill but needed probably to learn how to play to be effective and I think over the course of the season it seems like he's taken the steps in the right direction to learn how to play what I'd call efficient and effective, not just flashes of skill but making a lot of plays to create offense and be good defensively."

Svechnikov was the Wings' first-round pick, 19th overall, in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

Although just 20 years old, Svechnikov is already 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds.

"He's real strong," Blashill said. "He's a big body and he's got thickness. He's real strong on the puck, he's got real good hands, he can pass the puck excellent and he can shoot it, so it's a good package. "I think his skating has improved over the course of the last couple years because he works real hard at it. Playing at that high level pace is going to be the biggest thing for him. If he does that, his skills package will shine."

In 68 games with the Griffins, Svechnikov is fourth on the team with 18 goals, tied for third with 26 assists, fourth in points with 44, tied for third in penalty minutes with 56, tied for second with five game-winning goals and third with 165 shots.

"From watching him, he's a really talented player," defenseman Nick Jensen said. "He's young. He works his bag off. I don't think I've seen a harder worker than what he does. And then with his skill set, it's a deadly combination, when you've got a skill guy who works hard."

Blashill said he has heard the same thing about Svechnikov's work ethic.

"I had a player tell me he was walking home towards his apartment one night and he looked up and Evgeny's running on the treadmill," Blashill said. "It's that kind of extraordinary inner drive that determines not only who can play in the league but who can be winners in this league. We've seen it with guys who've been elite in this locker room in the past and certainly it seems like he has that type of inner drive so that's certainly a positive thing for us."

Blashill said Svechnikov will start on a line with Dylan Larkin and Justin Abdelkader.

Tomas Nosek played a few games with Svechnikov in Grand Rapids and he and Jensen agree about what makes him special.

"He's got a hell of a shot," Nosek said. "He's not scared to do some big moves and he's got a ton of skill so that's the biggest things."

Said Jensen: "From what I've seen I think he does a good job in the O-zone of getting the puck and finding ways to get it on net. And he's got a really got a good shot, so I think that's one of his best attributes. He's pretty shifty with his hands, so he's able to kind of juke guys out and then get a shot on net. That's kind of deceiving to the goalie because it's a quick release."

Nosek said Svechnikov played a few games in the KHL, which has probably helped him in his first professional season in Grand Rapids.

"I think it's a pretty good season for a rookie in Grand Rapids," Nosek said. "He's got a ton of skills, he's got a lot of talent. I think he's better on defense, too. He's done a great job down there and I hope he will do the same thing tonight."

Blashill said he doesn't know if Svechnikov will make the trip to Ottawa for the second half of the home-and-home set.

MRAZEK TO PLAY: It's Petr Mrazek's turn in the goaltending rotation.

Mrazek has a special connection with Ottawa as he played for the Ottawa 67's.

In five games against the Senators, Mrazek is 3-0-2 with a 1.55 goals-against average and .947 save percentage.

"I don't think it's a difference to play against a team like that," Mrazek said. "Every game is the game you want to win. You want to be the best on the ice. You want to beat the other goalie. I don't look at if it's Ottawa, or if it's Tampa, or any other team."

After the season ends, Mrazek is hoping to play for the Czech Republic in the world championships.

"Is really fun. My last worlds were like five years ago in Sweden," Mrazek said. "I was the third goalie there but it was a great experience and I'm looking forward to it.

"I'm sure my parents are gonna come, maybe for a weekend or a couple of days. My girlfriend is going to go I think for all two weeks."

THE NEXT HOLMSTROM: The Wings are about to get a look at the next Holmstrom, Axel Holmstrom, who has just been reassigned from Skelleftea AIK of the Swedish Hockey League to the Griffins.

Axel Holmstrom is not related to former Wing Tomas Holmstrom.

"They're not related but he plays a similar game to Tomas Holmstrom in the sense that he does a lot of his work in the hard, greasy areas around the net," Wings assistant general manager Ryan Martin told "He's got good hands and hockey sense. He's not quite as big as Tomas was, but that's how he makes his living, down low below the goal line, little give and go plays. He's an offensive guy. What we like most about him is his hockey sense. He's got to continue to work on his skating and his quickness but that's normal for a player who's just 20 years old."

Holmstrom was the Wings' sixth-round pick, 196th overall, in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

Holmstrom's development has been hampered by injury, including major knee surgery last season and then another knee injury this season that limited him to just 16 regular season games this season.

"He's had a challenging year in terms of the number of games that he has played," Martin said. "I know he's excited and we're excited to have him come over to Grand Rapids and because of our injuries in Grand Rapids he's going to go right into the lineup. So, he's excited for the opportunity to play, because he hasn't played a lot of hockey this year and obviously we're excited to have the chance to evaluate him on the North American ice surface as he prepares to come over here next year. I think it'll be a great opportunity for us to get a look at him. He hasn't had a real strong year statistically and he's been hampered by injuries but I think the positive is he's playing well lately in his recent return."

In the playoffs with Skelleftea AIK, Holmstrom had three goals and four assists in seven games.

"He had a very good playoff," Martin said. "Two years ago, in 2015, I think, he broke one of the Sedins' playoff scoring records. He's had two very good years there, he's just been hampered by injuries. Really, our expectations when we signed him two years ago under the transfer agreement - we were obligated to loan him back to Sweden for one year, prior to his 21st birthday - we did that and then the expectation was he was going to be here last year at the start, playing in North America but because he suffered the knee injury, we and he both felt it was best for his development to stay in Sweden for another year. So he's played two years in Sweden since we signed him. He as well as we are anxious to get him playing over here."

Holmstrom is expected to be in Grand Rapids next season.

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