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Notes: Vanek's injury worse than originally thought

Xavier Ouellet returns to the lineup, replacing Ryan Sproul

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT - The Red Wings will be without one of their top two scorers for longer than originally expected.


Thomas Vanek's lower-body injury has been downgraded from day-to-day to week-to-week.

"He's had some tests done," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said before Sunday's game. "It's worse than we thought originally. I don't expect him back this week. I don't know the exact number of days but it's longer than shorter right now."


Vanek has four goals and four assists, tied with Gustav Nyquist (three goals, five assists) for the team lead in scoring.


"It's a credit to Thomas that we're talking about it this much," Blashill said. "He came in, did a real good job. He's had a good impact early on our team. He's a guy that can score easy, and I don't mean he can score with one shot. Some guys need lots of volume to score, he doesn't need it. He's a right shot on the power play. But it's the league, everyone is missing guys. I'm more worried about the 20 that are dressed tonight and trying to win a hockey game."


Vanek's absence has meant that both Steve Ott and Andreas Athanasiou have remained in the lineup.


Although Anthony Mantha has seven goals in seven games with the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins, it did not sound like a recall was imminent.


"Not at this moment we won't call up anybody but if we needed to, there's some cap wiggling that we'd have to do, probably involving long-term IR," Blashill said. "But right now, we like the group we have. So we'll see."


CHANGES FOR FLORIDA: In addition to having Petr Mrazek start one night after Jimmy Howard played, the Wings are making a change on defense.


Blashill said Ouellet will draw into the lineup in place of Ryan Sproul.


"First of all, I want to get X back in, it's back-to-back," Blashill said. "I thought X played three real good games and then one OK one. I think Sproully played a couple good games and then a couple OK ones. We got a lot of guys that are close so we want to get X back in."


Ouellet has one assist and is plus-two in four games and Sproul had two assists and was plus-one in five games.


PANTHERS AGAIN: The Florida Panthers are 5-1-1 in their last seven games in Detroit. 


The Wings played the Panthers on the road in their second game of the season and did not fare well, falling 4-1 at the BB&T Center.


"Last game we played them I didn't think we got much done," Blashill said. "They, I don't know if dominate is the right word, but we didn't get much offensively going on at all. They got a couple quick ones on us. They won all the puck races and puck battles. Their second guy was first to every puck over our second guy. If that's the way it goes tonight it'll be a long night. If it's reversed it'll be advantage us."


Panthers coach Gerard Gallant, who played for the Red Wings, is expecting a tougher time at Joe Louis Arena.


"They're a fast team, and when you've got quick with that fact and you're skilled, it makes you a dangerous team," Gallant said. "We played them early in the year and they didn't play their best game against us. They didn't play real well against us but they're a team that's going to be real good and real dangerous again. They've got a fast team and they've got a skilled team for sure."


The Wings are coming off a tough 1-0 loss at home to the Boston Bruins.


"I didn't think we were good enough," Blashill said. "We want to make sure we stem that as quick as we can and I'm sure Florida is thinking the opposite."


POWER PLAY WOES: The Wings are currently 18th in the league on the power play at 16.7 percent. 


Two of their six power-play goals were scored by Vanek, who is out for a while.


They went 0-for-4 in Saturday's game against Boston and are 0-for-17 with the man-advantage in their last four games overall.


"I think the No. 1 thing on our power play last night was we lost all the wall battles so you got to win all the wall battles in order to have possession of the puck," Blashill said. "I think power plays come down to having tons of possession time, getting lots of shots and retrievals, and we lost all the wall battles and we spent very little time in our end. They pressured us hard, they did a good job but that's no excuse. We had multiple opportunities on the wall where we had outs and we didn't use the outs we had so we got to communicate better and win those wall battles."

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