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Notes: Thomas Vanek excelling for Wings this season

Detroit has tough test in Monday matinee with Atlantic Division-leading Montreal

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT - Thomas Vanek has very quietly put together a five-game point streak.

Vanek has four goals and four assists in that span.

"He's battle level is real high," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "This is the only year I've had him so I can't speak to the other years. I think he's a great person and he wants to win and wants to do great things. I bring him in to show him things all the time and he's receptive and tells me when he disagrees and he's certainly receptive to coaching and getting better. He wants to be the very best in can be on the ice. His compete level is extremely, extremely high most nights and his skill set with that compete level makes him a very good player for us."

The Wings started the season really well offensively until Vanek went down with a hip injury that kept him out 11 games.

Vanek has 29 points in just 32 games and is currently second on the team in scoring to captain Henrik Zetterberg, who has 31 points. "

You know players around the league, you know people on different teams and I always heard good stuff about him," Zetterberg said. "I've always liked the way he plays. He's a creative player, he wants to create stuff all the time. That's something that we need in this team. We have to have guys that want to go outside the box a little bit and are allowed to go outside the box, because the way we play with structure, you need guys to find those plays and he's really good at it. "

Vanek has 11 goals, tied for the team lead with Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin.

Although there were some people who felt that Vanek didn't always give his best effort, Blashill said he was determined to make his own conclusions.

"I told him exactly what I had heard," Blashill said. "I had heard he didn't play hard all the time. I had heard those types of things, but I also heard from coaches that had him and they thought he was great, a great human being. They thought he kind of got the raw end of the stick a little bit and they thought he could be an excellent player for us. He's proven to be an excellent player for us."

Vanek is currently thriving on a line with Frans Nielsen and Andreas Athanasiou.

CANADIENS CHALLENGE: The Wings will have their hands full today with the Montreal Canadiens, currently first in the Atlantic Division with 60 points in 44 games.

The Wings are seventh in the division with 42 points in 43 games.

"They've done a good job scoring goals because they're good on the forecheck, they attack the net tons in the O-zone so we've got to break out of our end fast and then when we are in our end, we got to make sure we're protecting our net front, our slot area, they force lots of pucks to that area and win battles in front," Blashill said. "Really that's the way you score in the NHL today. The other thing they are is they're a real good transition team so now it's the fourth team in a row that we're facing that's a really, really good transition team. They get guys in behind you, they fly out of their zone, they stretch in the neutral zone so we got to make sure that we don't give them anything easy."

Canadiens goaltender Carey Price is 21-7-4 with a 2.34 goals-against average and .921 save percentage this season.

But there has been some alarm after Price has allowed four, seven, four and three goals in the last four games.

"Is Carey Price not his old self, still the best in the league? We know he's an elite goalie," Blashill said. "We understand that but like any goaltender, you got to be ferocious at the net, you got to get to the net. One thing I think we've done a lot better the last 7-8 games is having a shooting mentality, guys knowing they've got to get to the net. If you do those two things, if you shoot the puck, guys are more willing to go and if guys are more willing to go you've got way more chance for chaos and out of that chaos is the best chance at scoring on goalies like Carey Price."

HOWARD UPDATE: Goaltender Jimmy Howard, who has missed the last 15 games with a knee injury, took an important step Monday.

"Jimmy was just out on in the ice, not going down, didn't take shots, nothing like that, just stayed on his feet," Blashill said. "But it was the first time he had been on the ice so that's a positive thing."

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